I was reminded of a chink in the armor of my classroom management on Friday afternoon. It wasn't really a great situation. It's a good time to reflect though.
I was sitting on duty during our required tutoring time on Friday, stationed at the end of new gym hall watching the hall to the new cafeteria, the hall to the old cafeteria, and the hall in front of the gym. Part of this station includes watching the doors that come in to the school from outside. The doors had been locked by a principal as soon as tutoring started. There are many athletes who like to loaf around in the hall in front of the gym and they let their friends inside, even though the doors are locked. I tend to think skipping tutoring is it's own punishment, so when there are athletes milling around there, I let them be. I've got too many other areas to worry about and that's not a battle I want to fight. However, the doors being locked IS a battle I've decided to fight. Students are supposed to go to Pirate Hall to enter the school because there are principals on duty there and they are better prepared to limit student traffic in and out of the school than I am.
So here's when the chink was revealed. A student left school before the doors were locked and came back after they had been secured. She was extremely upset when I refused to allow an athlete to let her in through those doors. She showed her frustration by telling me I was Number One with the wrong finger. I simply waved her towards Pirate Hall and decided I would deal with her ugly attitude if I saw her again in the hall that day. Sure enough, she tried to walk by my duty station, all the while sulking and generally being ticked off. I asked her to come talk to me and proceed to tell her that giving someone the finger wasn't really a polite way to interact. She stood there and said nothing. I think I may have gotten louder because I got frustrated. My biggest problem was the sarcastic tone with which I spoke to her, especially at the end.
My initial plan was to talk to her and let the whole thing drop, but she pushed a button when she refused to acknowledge what I was telling her. This made the entire interaction about ME and that's not the what was supposed to happen. I tried very hard to not use the old "that's not how you talk to a teacher line" and tried to make it more about being disrespectful in general. As I think back on the situation, the main thing I could have changed was to simply send her to the office immediately.
By the time the exchange (which was rather one sided) she had only uttered five words: "Mmmhmmm" and "Oh My F***ing God!" I see this as a problem because I didn't engage her and resolve the situation. In fact, I feel now like I may have escalated it because she was even more upset.
I recognize I can't fix every single thing that comes up, but my personality makes me want to. Its a curse. The other problem I have is with disrespect. It drives me bonkers and makes me go from zero to insane when students are disrespectful. I suppose that comes from two things: the way I was raised and my military training. I'm a lot better at dealing with this than I was 2 years ago, but occasionally, I still lose my cool and get loud. That's why this situation is so frustrating; it hasn't happened in a very long time.
If you are a classroom teacher or administrator, I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you are someone trying to sell me something, don't bother because I'll mark your comment as spam. As always, thanks for reading.