reluctant disciplinarian Archives - The Jose Vilson

reluctant disciplinarian

Under All These Clothes, I Too Am Naked

by Jose Vilson on August 30, 2007

“Stand and Deliver”I’ve been reading a few books here and there about education, from The First Days of School by Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong to the previously mentioned The Reluctant Disciplinarian by Gary Rubenstein. A common theme (that even this article seems to justify) is that there’s a sort of acting that goes on with the role of a teacher. I previously discussed this as being in one’s avatar state, vis-a-vis Avatar the Last Airbender. Edward James Olmos also made mention in a speech I heard a few years ago, stating that “acting is the art of being.” It’s never been more apparent lately that teachers are truly method actors who’ve done extensive research.

And by acting, I mean, we bring elements of what a teacher should look like, but adjust it to accommodate our true personalities. For instance, I hate having to ask my teachers if I can use the bathroom, but it’s a good rule for younger kids because it teaches them discipline. That’s the contrast between the acting me and the real me. Yet, as a teacher, I use slang every so often to help kids better understand the material I’m teaching. That’s a comparison.

Many of the blogs I’ve read here in the blogosphere have only proven just how stressful and worn out teachers are from their professions, having a (albeit highly sensitive) outlook on their performance as a reflection of the kids’ success. While it’s great to have high expectations and follow through with great performance, it’s also important to understand that too much of anything isn’t good. For instance, many teachers often jump into their roles as teachers too deeply (present writer included), but it usually means that the teacher will someday act out in frustration when their acting becomes too much of their person, and hence makes them vulnerable to kids’ shortcomings and shifting personalities.

This becomes even more evident in the extracurriculars that many of the student personnel take on. Some of us do mild things, like redesign our houses, go fish with our (biological) kids, or even :: gasp:: teach summer schools. Others of us, though, and especially the younger generation, tend to drink heavily, take on extreme sports, or go off to remote parts of the world. The latter, some safe and some not as much, is an indication that teaching isn’t this pretty ready-made profession outliers make it out to be. To the contrary, the sense of personal risk and the responsibility for a whole generation of kids often takes a toll on the person underneath the professional attire.

Yet, on the first day of school, I realized the only thing I got going for me besides my boyish charms and way with words is my teacher look.  With no kids around and the chance to just get acquainted with my room, I saw how my persona / performance on the stage would really have to capture the audience this year, a crew of 6th graders on the precipice of adolescence and hanging on to a branch of childhood. My sincerity in my acting I hope stands in contrast to people who act like they care but don’t.

Underneath that self-assured and undeniable exterior most of the good teachers wear, there’s this vulnerable skin, much like the audiences we perform for 180 or so days does …

jose, who’s less than 1/2way done with his classroom setup


The Not-So-Reluctant Disciplinarian

by Jose Vilson on August 28, 2007

The Reluctant DisciplinarianFor any new teacher, I would recommend Gary Rubenstein’s The Reluctant Disciplinarian, a book of one teacher’s journey towards becoming the ultimate disciplinarian. Well, it’s not as fabricated as that, but it’s certainly worth a read. It’s hilarious, and an easy read. More importantly, it reaches a wide audience: it’s mainly for first year teachers, but teachers of any age can read it either for better perspective on their own disciplinary tactics or simply to refresh what they know (since they may have been away from a school for a whole summer).

My transformation to Mr. V is about 30-50% there. All I need to remember is the discipline side of things. I believe discipline in an urban school is 75% of the job; the academics come naturally to me since I have an affinity for math. I’ve already picked up read aloud books, been given some good material for my math library, and have some ideas for how I want to set up my seating arrangements. Once I see my classroom today, Mr. V will definitely be up to 60%.

But the one thing that concerns me is still that discipline because it’s the most fluctuating and the most dependent on the most undependable of things: human nature. Despite that, there are a few things I’ve kept in my back pocket that, like Rubenstein, work well for me. These are just some.

1. Say hello to the kids every morning. Simple enough, but it works.

2. Don’t scream or shout. Just be patient. Sometimes these techniques work, but it’s easy for them to tune it out when you do it frequently enough. When the kids get too loud and they have yet to catch their attention, I simply state, “I’m doing my job, so you’ll let me know.

2.5. Keep them in for extended periods or after school if they waste too much of your time.

3. Take attendance at the beginning of every single class. Not one.

4. “No” is my favorite word as Mr. V. Use it. Even if, as Jose, you think that “No” is absurd, hardheaded, and stubborn, it’s still the best thing to do.

5. Find a balance that works for you between the personal and professional. Some teachers act out and take things too personally when kids do something, but it’s really about their position. Others take things too professionally and end up losing the desired effect they wish to have on their kids. (Especially in urban schools, this component is important).

6. Talk to other teachers and find your own niche. Even during times when I felt on top of the world, I’d go around to other teachers and watch their classrooms, not just for discipline reasons but for academic reasons.

7. Be consistent with whatever you do. To piggyback off of Rubenstein,  if you’re going to be easy on the homework, be so consistently. Don’t just switch it up whenever you feel like it. Follow your rules. Consistency is your best weapon.

8. Call parents as soon as kids who you know you can affect go astray. And for the kids you know don’t have parents to call, … good luck, and hopefully the other disciplinary tips work out.

9. Be one with your inner teacher. It’s something I didn’t fully understand until I became an avid fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, a critically-acclaimed cartoon on Nickelodeon. When I go into the classroom as Mr. V, that’s exactly who I am and can’t anyone stop me. There’s a certain aura that I have that emits a certain confidence and preparedness. In my “avatar” state, I’m at my most powerful, but also my most vulnerable. If acting is the art of being, then be one with your avatar.

10. Look for your kids in other classes and see how they behave with other teachers. And just for that respect / fear factor, interject when possible. I don’t know what it is, but when the kids felt that I was watching their every move, they respected me even more.

I’m still learning as much as the next person about these things, so none of these rules are set in stone.

Any other suggestion for new(er) teachers?

mr. v, who doesn’t usually pull a miss nelson if nothing else works …

“Miss Nelson Is Missing”