Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What I Didn’t Learn in Grad School I Learned from Mom

The following reflection piece by Christine Brody really got me to thinking how much influence my parents had on me, and how much I will have on my own kids. Students learn so much from our behavior and imparticular our relationships with the world. After reading the following reflection we should each add our own advice we've heeded either from mom or someone else important in our life.

What I Didn’t Learn in Grad School I Learned from Mom

Christine Brody, English Teacher at the Queens High School of Teaching

As I complete my first year as a high school teacher, I must admit I have been spoiled. It’s been a wonderful first year thanks to my extremely supportive and generous colleagues, an accessible principal, my fabulous mentor with a PhD in Crisis Management and of course…great students. But I must also give credit to one other factor that helped me survive my toughest year ever—Mom. Let’s admit it. Mom knows best and as we are around young people for 6+ hours a day, I truly begin to feel like a second mother to my students. One thing Grad school didn’t teach me was that as a high school English teacher, Language Arts is often secondary to the daily events I need to prepare for. In a single day boyfriend breakups, parent divorces, and other complex personal issues manifest into attitude problems, behavior problems and other major classroom management challenges. This is where Mom comes in. Here are six gems she modeled for me as a little girl of which I now take with me into the classroom.

Be in Charge—“I’m not cool. I’m your Mother”

When invited to a party that spelled “trouble” my mother was quick to say no. I’d beg, “Mom, why can’t you just be cool this one time and just let me go?” Her response, “I’m not cool. I’m your Mother.” It sounds funny now but her point was well made. As a first year teacher, the temptation to be “cool” and friendly with your students may cost you control of your classroom. Don’t let things slide simply to win your students over. You will naturally win them over (like Mom) when you are fair, consistent, and you’re doing your job well.

Be Consistent

When my older brother got caught cutting in high school he was grounded two nights for each missed class. I knew this would be my impending doom should I follow suit. In Elementary school, if we got perfect attendance for the year we would be rewarded with a new bike. How would my little brother feel if he hadn’t received his “chromed out Mongoose” after enduring 10 long months of perfect attendance? Nothing is more annoying for kids than inconsistency. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t say one thing and do another. Don’t treat one kid different than the others. They have memories like elephants. They are always watching to see how you react. If you are consistent with your rules your students are less likely to challenge them.

Be Clear with Your Expectations

Don’t take for granted that your students know exactly what you expect from them all of the time. It’s very frustrating for them to be reprimanded for something they didn’t even know was wrong. Before you start yelling ask yourself, “Could I have explained this better?”

Discipline with Care

Even if I royally messed up I knew Mom would still love me. Before there ever was a “Nanny 911” my mom knew to explain to me what I did wrong, why it was wrong, and how it was hurting me. When a student breaks a rule of yours do not publicly berate them. They will be more open to learning their lesson if there is a private conversation between the two of you. They will appreciate this level of respect too.

Celebrate Accomplishments—Mom’s Refrigerator

O.K. I admit to this day, in my own house I place accomplishments of mine on the refrigerator. Why? Because we all need to reflect on the things we’ve done well. Remember that feeling when Mom put your finger painting up? We need to do this more in the classroom. One colleague of mine has created her own “refrigerator” cork board to hang her students’ work. Despite the fact that she is an English teacher, she celebrates her students’ accomplishments in all their classes.

Be Transparent—Never Say, “Do it….Because I Said So!”

Mom always made sense with her reasoning. She always took the time to explain why.

A major key to classroom management success is transparency. As adults, we would NEVER do anything just because someone told us to. We want our students to ask why. Share your objectives with your students. Be clear why you’re doing an activity. They view their time as valuable as you view yours.

These are some lessons I learned as a child. Now she instructs me to take my vitamins, eat well, and get lots of sleep—more good advice.

Post your comments below...share your wisdom of experience.


D. O'Neill said...

Wow Christine, what a wonderful reflection. I can only hope that I am as good a Mom as your mom is.

olga said...

hey ms. brody. that was really nice. i loiked it. iyt was touching...