Monday, October 10, 2011

Cosby & the classroom

I've been looking for an apartment lately, and today I saw one that might be The One. Afterwards, my dad and I were discussing finances in the car, figuring out what all my expenses would be and how much I'd have leftover at the end of the month. At one point I reminded him we needed to figure in the cost of groceries, and we both immediately started going into this old "Cosby Show" routine:

This is one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite shows. I decided I needed to look it up on YouTube for a millionth viewing, and it got me thinking. Now that I've learned more about what kind of a teacher I am, I think that my style is somewhat like the way that Cliff Huxtable parents. I'm a loving person, but I also tell it like it is. If this were "Full House," after Theo makes the speech there would be a big "awww" moment. But instead, he calls the kid out, telling him his excuses are stupid and he'd darn well better shape up. And then, at the end, they hug it out. I try to give my students a lot of encouragement, but they also quickly learn that I'm not just going to sugarcoat everything. If I think they're being lazy or not living up to their potential, you bet I'm gonna tell them. Not in a mean way, mind you--that won't get you anywhere with kids. But what most of them need simultaneously (one of our vocab words last week!) is a hug and a swift kick in the ass. Also, we teachers can't just tell them to do better; we have to show them how to do better and point out their strengths so they have something to feel good about, all while making it clear that we will be holding them to a high standard.

I've had this style rub a couple of people the wrong way. One girl last year told me that she thought I talked down to her. The truth is, she expected me to coddle her and tell her that everything she touched turned to gold. Instead of working hard and turning in all her work, she just complained about everything. But I've had plenty of kids come to me for extra help who ended up staying for a while afterwards and talking to me about school and life, and not all of them were doing well in my class. I think (I hope) that they recognized that I am always willing to listen to what is on their minds and will try my best to help them find a solution. And they had learned to understand that even though I demand a lot from them, and that they truly have to earn good grades in my class, that it is all because I want them to be successful and to reach their full potential.

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