I have always struggled with classroom management. I have done everything strategy under the sun that exists to earn the respect of students. When implementing these practices, I avoid expressing anger and yelling at the students. My rationale behind this derives from my own childhood, where I grew up fearful of my parents. When adult authorities rose their voice and expressed irrational anger, I would shut off. I did not want my students to experience condescending belittlement, so I would refrain from direct authority.
At the end of the next year, I gave students a survey of my classroom and teaching. I got many beautiful responses of transformation, college readiness, and purpose. However, I had a repeated concern of classroom management and classroom control--this makes sense. My objective has never been to control a class, let alone control anyone. As a human being, I believe that we give everyone a choice to be who they are and teacher guide students into becoming their truest and highest selves. I met my objectives as an educator to mentor students through this, but my lack of control of the class leads to a lack of respect. That lack of respect is a problem because it could lead to hostility in the class, purposeless chaos, and missed opportunity for students who need to learn professionalism. I try to bring joy and warmth in the class--this I do. But I do it at the cost of control.
Here’s what some of my students shared:
in my opinion ms whang doesnt need to improve in general but shedoes need to improve on the why she controlls students. for example she need to get them introuble more like sending them to the offices or calling them parents. students be cntolling her instead and that doesnt look nice it makes me feel bad cause it loos like she stress alot. she need to make them listen to her
I think Ms. Whang can improve on not being so soft on the students that talk back to you and letting them get away with the things they do like disrespect you. You deserve a ton of respect for how great of a teacher you are and how much you do for us.
Another student said I had to stop smiling! What struck me most about these comments was that the students were rooting for me. They were standing up for me and expressing that they saw my intent and felt bad that it was being taken advantage. When I read these, my heart sank. No matter what beautiful work I accomplish with my students, if they don’t respect me, why stay in my career.
As I look back in my years of teaching, I realize that I walk into my classroom filled with anxiety everyday. The reason I walk in anxious is because my personhood is challenged. I am so focused on guarding curriculum and learning, that I forget to guard myself.
I don’t see this battle as me against the students--they are on my side. I see it as me against me. I need to become a person of decisiveness. I try not to take evaluations personal. If a student states that the class was boring because they had to read and write too much, I filter that and see that the student may have felt challenged. However, the critique that there was a lack of control, is personal because it challenging the way I express the respect I deserve.
I have made many decisions in my life where I placed myself second, or third, or even last. Just as in my life, I need to put myself first, I do in the classroom as well. This statement does not mean selfishly, but my integrity and respect should ALWAYS come first.
SO WHAT NOW?
I need balance; like everything in life. I need to balance both the nurturing and authoritative side of me. "I'm here for you, but I don't take shit." I’ve gained a new ownership of my authority and classroom environment. Given, there is much I still need to grow in as a teacher, but I am ready to draw boundaries and hold students accountable for high expectations. I will not FEAR the class because I CAN control it. I walk into my class already defeated; but this is a new year.
I’m not going to be too nice, but I want to be self-empowering so I can empower my students. I need to stand up for myself for students who try to take advantage of me. Some of you may feel that this is because I work in Compton, but to be real, this has been a constant dilemma I faced in all 5 years of my teaching. I’m not ashamed because I know these trials were in my life to keep me humble and teach me how much respect I really do deserve and need to DEMAND.
This doesn't mean I'm going to stop being nice and smiling; it's just time to vocalize my authority as an expression of love and care.
I am a good teacher. I have to say this aloud to myself sometimes. All because my kids can get disruptive and weird, doesn’t mean I’m a bad teacher. I am a good teacher because I am always willing to become better. I am willing to make changes to not only my practices, BUT MYSELF. I change myself not just to better my class, but to better me. Life should always be about growth, even if it hurts
“Ms. Whang always wanted to help. she always tried to be there the most when we needed her. I feel she likes to connect and feel what the students are about. She doesn't do it for the money she really helps like she cares for us.”