Wednesday, March 9, 2011

pet peeves

As part of my job I work with a lot of substitutes. When my classroom teachers are out I still go into their classrooms to teach lessons while the substitute sits around. Most subs don't understand what co-teaching is and tend to be very confused by my presence. The fact that I'm coming into their room to teach a lesson confuses them more. This also means I spend a lot of time watching substitutes manage classrooms.  Some are awesome- this week one of my co-teachers is out and we have an amazing sub. It's a dream. But some- not so awesome. And it's from these substitutes that I'm always being reminded of my biggest pet peeves in teaching.

I think my biggest pet peeve as a teacher is the "SHHHHH" sound. There is absolutely no reason to ever use that sound when trying to get a group of kids to be quiet. Have you ever seen it work?  We use it with babies because it sounds like the mother's heart. Kinders cannot remember what their mother's heart sounded like. They're too old for that, yet we still insist on making a snake noise at them anyway.  It's habit and instinct- we do it automatically- it's what comes to us when someone is being loud before we even comprehend that we can use our words to ask someone to be quiet. I do it too. That doesn't mean it doesn't drive me crazy.

What happens when you make the "shhhh" sound to a room full of kids? They all start making it too. Loudly. Spit goes everywhere. They are in each other's faces with their fingers and their pursed lips "SHHHHHHing" their friends. And suddenly you have a room full of snakes instead of quiet kiddos ready to learn.

Quiet signals work much better- a soft chime, a hand motion, a clap rhythm, anything the class has been pretaught means "be quiet and look at me".  Sometimes even a spontaneous song signals to the class that it's time to come back together as a group and time to stop the side conversations.

Another one of my pet peeves is when substitutes, or anyone really, uses the phrase, "That might work for ____ but that's not going to work for me" or "You might get away with that with _____ but not with me" when referring to a child's behavior. It is nothing but a power trip, as though the adult is reminding themselves that they are in charge- it's simply the adult taking a deep breath to decide what to say next before redirecting the behavior. It does nothing to actually change the behavior, but to a with-it kid sends the message that the teacher talking doesn't respect the other adults in charge, and that there are mixed expectations. Our entire goal as teachers is to teach skills that will be transferred elsewhere. If we're teaching them that a certain standard is only used with one specific teacher, we're telling them that what we want them to do isn't important the rest of the time- just with us. There are so many better ways to phrase redirecting behaviors without telling the kid that their mother/grandmother/previous teacher is a weeny when it comes to managing behaviors. Even just stating "In school we walk" to explain that the behavior we want a student to see is expected all the time in this general setting.  "I'm sorry you are sad but you still need to finish your work"  or, "That isn't a choice. You need to sit with the group".  Or my personal favorite "Pencils are for writing, not for swords. Show me how to use the pencil for writing."  Because honestly, does the kid's mother really let him use the pencil as a sword at home?  Is there any reason for me to say "You might play with pencils like that at home but not on my watch?"  Seriously?  No.

It's late and I'm not thinking of my best teacher language so I know there are much better phrases out there.  How to Talk so Kids Can Learn, Choice Words, and The Power of Our Words are all awesome examples of using teaching language to empower kids.

*I may be coming down with a cold so I am probably hyper-irritable right now.  Perhaps tomorrow I wont object to these quite so much...**


Jen said...

I find the same things annoying (and not only from subs, but hearing parents do them too!)

However, having subbed for the longest 4 months of my life and then taught in my own room. Subbing is hard!

You walk into a room cold, you have no idea except what you can tell from the walls and the kids' reactions how that room is run. Very few people leave lesson plans that you can actually follow easily -- and I know from writing up my own sub plans how impossible it is to get even the basics written down.

You spend all day trying not to lose any kids or look like a complete idiot for making them miss lunch or heaven forbid, screwing up dismissal.

I subbed in a K room with a student teacher, after the student teacher had been there several months. The regular teacher had an awesome morning routine, with all sorts of things included -- attendance, weather, lunch, counting, letter sounds, nursery rhymes, and more -- various kids had various jobs...

It took over 30 minutes, too, when all was said and done. It was an amazing sight to see it happen in front of me with the student teacher keeping things on track. Without her there, though?! I'd have had not a clue what to do and the sentence or two in the plans said something like "do morning routine for attendance and weather."

Not having that student teacher there to start the day off and keep the major outlines going? Those kids would have been rattly and off-track all the rest of the day!

fwteacher said...

I have heard that "pet peeve" phrase used by someone who was referring to me. I understand what you are saying. I do think there is one place where this is appropriate and responsive, but different words are required. When I am teaching grammar, I differentiate between the way we talk at home and with our friends and family vs. the way we talk at school or at work. I don't want to come out and say that some people speak with bad grammar. So I do say that some kinds of talking are great with some people and situations, and other kinds of talking are important for other people and situations. But the messaage is not one of disrespect for a student's home language, but of respect for different ways of communicating.

Lorena said...

My Co-teacher has mentioned that subs see her come in a have her take over even though I state in my sub plans that we co teach at that time. Only one sub so far has really followed through.

Hope you feel better soon.

organized chaos said...

fwteacher, I completely agree- especially in the case of grammar we need to teach the differences between the way we talk with our friends, the way we write emails, and the way we write for school. And you're so right- if we told kids the only way to speak was with perfect grammar we'd be sending them home to get beat up. Or we'd created disrespect between them and their parent- and that's the worst thing we could do. And there are times we absolutely have to teach that the behavior at home is different from the behavior at school. I think it's all about the way we deliver the message and the respect in our voice when we do it. When we're discipling a child it's not the time to teach that. It can come later. I once had a kiddo from Ethiopia get in huge trouble for spitting on the cafeteria floor. It was his first week of school and he had no idea that in America we just don't spit on the floor. It would have humiliated him to say "I don't know what you do in YOUR country, but here..." Instead we just firmly yet gently explained that we don't do that here. I guess really it's about the tone of voice we use as teachers and whether or not we're being sarcastic.

Snippety Gibbet said...

I wish the sub I had for an instructional assistant would have opted for the shushing instead of the yelling. When this giant, scary looking man walked in with the preschool class this week, I tried to not let my prejudices get the best of me. Unfortunately, my intuition had been pretty spot on. When he started yelling at the babies, I just tried keeping them close to me and far away from him. It wasn't helpful when I was trying to speak to a child about their behavior and this guy barked commands to them over my talking. Patience was not one of his strong points. Ugh. I felt sorry for the classroom teacher who had to endure him the entire day.

magpie said...

Oh oh.
I always try to be the best I can but I stuff it with a shhhh and the occasional yell.
It's been 3 years and I still stuff it big time:( for a few minutes. I cover myself with the "I didn't want to use the angry voice..."
I enjoy teaching the younger students but I generally know by the number of toilet requests as to how I'm going.
Thankyou, this type of phrase practise helps ☺☺☺