The Detention Queen Abdicates

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Every year, I average 10 detentions the first week of school.   Almost all are after a private warning of, “I need you to stop talking or you’ll get a detention” when students test just how true to my word I am.  See this post for a more detailed explanation and my true feelings about detentions.  As a level 2 and 3 teacher, I always have some students for 2 years.  On the second day, my second-year-students asked me, “How many detentions have you given out already Mrs. Barber?”

This year, I have not even discussed consequences with my classes.  Not once.  We spent the entire first week setting the tone and team building.  We jumped into curriculum week 2, and I have not given many independent activities.  During the couple we’ve had, I have not had to warn anyone to stop talking.  Everyone did what was expected of them.  Every. Single. Student.  However, I have had to give out 3 detentions due to inappropriate language that I just could not ignore (students, do not say bad words when a teacher is nearby!!!!)

I had to have a substitute on Friday so that I could proctor credit by exam for native and heritage Spanish speakers at my school.  Normally, before I have a sub, I go over my expectations and warn them that if the sub writes a name down, that student will get a detention.  This time, I changed my speech.  In every class, I told the truth.  I said my sub is my good friend and a mentor to me, she knows Spanish, and she’s super-excited to spend the day with my students because she knows many of them from other sub jobs, and she automatically loves my students because she loves me.  I did not mention anything negative whatsoever.  I kept it positive and got the best sub report of my entire career.   At lunch on Friday, she told me that she kept asking the classes if they were always this wonderful–my morning classes are on-level.  At the end of the day, she said there were not enough words to compliment how perfect the day was.  I cannot wait to tell my classes tomorrow!  I cannot wait to brag on them!

I tried something new this year, and it worked.  I know that some teachers thought I was crazy to “waste” an entire week when we have so little time to get in all of the curriculum.  I’m a realist who maintains her ideals.  I know the value of having my students on my side.  I did what was necessary to make that happen.  We will catch up curriculum-wise.  Setting the tone is crucial and not something that can easily be altered if not begun properly.  I want to look back on this year as my favorite.  I want that every year, and this year may give all my other favorite years a run for their money :).

So, I guess the Detention Queen has to pass the title on to someone else.  I’m prepared to give them out if I need to, but I know that people give you what you expect.  I took a week to show my students how important they are to me and that I genuinely care about them.  Additionally, I have held them to high standards as students and people, and so far, every day has been a wonderful blessing.

I hope and pray that all my teacher friends near and far are having as much fun as we are in my classes this year!

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Hi, my name is Laura-Jane Barber, & I want my students to like me!

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It was my first year of teaching.  The “right” thing to say to stay off the radar was, “I don’t care if my students like me.”  I even said that phrase back then.  But… It was all a lie.  I have always wanted my students to like me because I like them.

Don’t get me wrong, I know respect is more important, but it’s much easier to gain respect from someone who likes you.  We are taught to be mean at first, “don’t smile until Christmas,” and maybe that works for some, but it’s not me.  I’m cheerful, enthusiastic and excited to hangout all day with my high schoolers.

My first year of teaching, I think I got lucky.  I had relatively easy students to manage–which was a blessing as I was a traveling teacher with 2 schools and 6 classrooms while pregnant.  God knew my limits.  My second year was the year that fell apart.  I had disrespectful students, and at first I gave too many warnings that made it impossible to follow-through later.  I got trapped by, “well you let so-and-so have 5 warnings, I only got 1.”  How do you argue with something that is irrefutably unfair?  I learned the value of doing what I say I’m going to do from day 1.

I know there are a lot of new teachers out there and teachers who have had a year of bad classroom management.  I want to offer hope and advice to prevent anyone from having a year like I did my second year.

The reality is, you can be nice, but firm.  I am friendly and laid-back in my classroom, but that should never be mistaken for an attitude of not caring what students do.  Students realize this, when someone decides to test just how flexible my attitude is.  So for starters, be prepared for someone to test you this week.  When it happens, do not show any anger, be very matter of fact.  You did ___, per school policy, I must now give you ___ consequence.  If possible, handle the situation as privately as possible–I go to the student in question and quietly warn him/her, and if the behavior continues, I revisit and ask to speak with him/her after class.  After class, I give him/her a detention form to complete.  Often, students do not know what to write.  For example, “talking” is the number one reason a student writes.  I always act shocked, “Talking!  This is a Spanish class; you have to talk.  I would NEVER give a detention for talking in a Spanish class.”  Eventually, they figure out something along the lines of, “talking at an inappropriate time,” and I sign and date it.  Sometimes, there are tears.  Inside, I want to cry with them.  I want to say, “Oh, it’s okay, I forgive you!!!!  Forget about the detention!” but that will get me nowhere.  Stay firm.  Follow-through.  I promise that they will still like you.  This is not just about liking.  It’s about trust.  By following through, students know they can trust you to mean what you say.  Every single year I have at least one student who tells me at the end of the year, “I thought I was going to hate this class when you gave me that detention the first week, but your class was one of my favorites.”

I’m not gonna lie, my heart strings always make me want to give just one more warning. I feel sad for the students.  However, I cannot give in to those feelings.  It’s like the quote I’ve seen circulating around Pinterest about dieting, “Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.”  I want a positive, inviting, warm classroom climate most.  I will not give that up for wanting to avoid a student getting mad at me today.

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