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...**