Saturday, July 13, 2013

Strictly Surprising, Somewhat Unsettling

Soooo. A friend of my mom's is a kindergarten teacher, retiring any minute now. L. tells me she ran into a former student of mine, that they discovered this mutual connection somehow, some freakish incidence of Six Degrees from Lola Bacon. Apparently what he told her about me as a teacher is that I am very..... strict. Strict???

Though I've been teaching since the dawn of cell phones, this is the first time I've had THAT feedback. I kinda don't know what to make of it.

It's better to be remembered as strict than as lenient, I suppose, and "strict" is waaaay better than "horrible." asks students to rate a teacher's helpfulness, clarity, and easiness. I do really well on the first two and think that is a teacher's goal. Students do not perceive me as an easy teacher. Is that the same thing as saying someone is strict?

What does that word mean, anyway? When I was in elementary school, it kind of was synonymous with "mean." If a teacher was nice but was in charge, we'd say, "She's nice, but she doesn't let kids get away with stuff," because the word "strict" had some bad connotations.

Am I strict? In September, I am super strict, I admit (a little defensively proud of it). There are only four rules for class and I have to make sure 35 or so 8th graders, crammed together in a small wooden bungalow with no a/c, LEARN stuff that they don't, let's face it, care about. When kids learn how to behave in September, that pays big dividends for the rest of the year.

But am I strict? I don't write referrals because my kids behave. The principal (well, the one who just left who was at the school for eight years) sends in student teachers and visitors and staff members to watch me because she thinks I'm a good class manager with good class rapport. Am I strict? Did that former student REALLY mean I was "mean?"

Postscript: This morning I read a blog that is usually way above my head, and I caught whiffs of my  post and of other doubts I've had about the meaning of my life, that I've never written a book, about possible self-delusion, and personal struggles as a teacher in a public school setting (a Christian teacher, what's more).  This post by Dr. Holly Ordway gave me a handle:

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