Teaching, Imagination, Discipline

My photo
I'm a mother, a teacher, a playwright, a former academic. I've spent most of my life in and around schools and universities all over the world. Nowadays, among other things, I teach in a high poverty elementary school in Los Angeles.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Darth Teacher

The force is always with us in the classroom. We, the teachers, direct, control, command. The question is always how much force to use.

I'm not talking about physical force--though did you know that in the eighth year of the 21st century corporal punishment in schools is still legal in 22 U.S. states?!

I'm talking about force of will.

Parents, of course, face the same dilemmas about forcing their will on smaller beings as teachers do


unless YOU, Dear Parent, have 20 offspring running around a one-room house for six hours a day five days a week and the federal government breathing down your back shouting 'test scores', you really do have to admit that teachers have a bit more to deal with.

Really, parents should remember this. Before you go shout/whine/hurl small missiles at your creature's teacher, take a deep breath, count to 10, and recite this mantra:
S/he has 20!
Or 30!
Or 40!
Or more!
All day long!
Then stop the missiles, and just say ommmmmmm.
Peace. . .

I learned how to be Darth Teacher from first learning how to be Darth Momma. When my dear (then) 5 year-old came home one day from his lovely constructivist Reggio preschool and announced, "You're not the boss of me!" I had to learn how to find my inner Vader. (All because he was into Star Wars). Breathing heavily, raspily, scarily, I snarled, " I....AM..... THEBOSS....of.... you. I.... am.. your...Mother!" And I flashed my pretend light saber in a challenging sort of way.
It sort of worked.
But, over time, my act sort of got better and better.

Theater--voices, especially-- go a loooooong way with little ones. If you can out-drama them, they pay attention.

Eventually, I learned how to take control of most situations that mattered, with the exception of morning toothbrushing, where my control over my child is a complete and miserable failure.

But taking control doesn't mean making all decisions. Really, it's about setting boundaries and parameters within which he learns to take responsibility as well as embrace freedom and play. You've got to have boundaries for creation to take place. Just ask any writer who stares at a blank page for hours on end.

When I call parents to find out why Javier or Samantha or LaChelle aren't doing their homework, I often get: "I tell her to, but s/he doesn't want to."

I'm sorry, but DOESN'T WANT TO?

It isn't even the doesn't want to that's so bad. Who wants to do homework? Who wants to pay bills? Who wants to clean the freaking house?

It's the 'I tell her but' that's the real issue. You, a grown adult who gave birth to or at least gave sperm to, this creature, are willing to settle for such little respect from them that at the ripe age of 5, 6, 7, or 8, they can choose when they want to listen to you?

Who's the boss of whom now?

(To be continued...)

No comments: