December 14, 2007

Brutal Honesty Lives On

Last week Ms. Whatsit posted an interesting link to a 60 Minutes report on how the workplace is changing to fit the Millennial generation. A few days later, she had a frustrating experience with a enabling parent and a cheatin' child in her class. This whole idea of how we have to change fit our clientèle is something I think about quite frequently, and I tend to fluctuate between being Ms. Understanding-the-Whole-Child to being Ms. Tough Love.

I'm not always as patient as I should be, and lately I find myself reading students the riot act on a regular basis. The thing with my students is that when I put them in their place, they stand there and take it. I don't know what they do with it when I'm done, but they take it. Even my more hard-core kids take it, but then they are used to reality kicking them in the rear end.

I just have so little patience for b.s. these days, and it seems like I am the only one doing the thinking. For example, I had seven students who did not finish the test I gave yesterday. Did those students say anything to me? No. Instead, they simply did not do a part of the test, so I was left to worry and wonder if they didn't understand the directions, or if they simply blew it off. I didn't think time should have been a issue, but I guess it was. So when I called the students to my desk to ask them about it, they acted like it was no big deal. They know me well enough, that they know I would give them the time needed to finish, but why didn't they advocate for themselves? I guess the 25% they missed wasn't important? Oy!

Lately, I think I've just been on a short fuse and irritable about everything. The nurturing part is whithering as the Cruella part flourishes. I've always been about tough love and have no qualms being honest with kids, but lately it feels like I'm constantly on one of them about something. (And then there are the kids who are daily needing tough love because don't think.) Over the years I've had many more students who reacted better to my keepin' it real than candy coating things for them, so it's kind of who I am. So, after watching the 60 Minutes video that Ms. Whatsit referenced, it really made me think about how the world is changing and how I really hate to coddle kids. Am I particularly ornery lately, or are there more kids in need of a good ass-chewin'?

And then I have to wonder if I am damaging some poor teenager. Or the whole generation of them.

Probably. I'm not the only one, though.

My team had three parents conferences this week. In every single conference it came down to the teachers and the counselor playing it straight with the student, "Yes, you are smart, but you are not working up to your potential. You need to do your homework and study for exams. At the rate you are going, you are going to be removed from the program. By the way, no magnet high school will even consider your application with grades like this." Traumatizing? Perhaps. Something that needed to be said? Of course. Yea, they were brutal meetings. How did the parents take all this raw honesty about their children? They took it. They knew it was coming. They're adults, so they know the realities of life. I'm sure it's so incredibly frightening to them to see their children doing so poorly and charging toward a less-than-desirable path in life.

On a more amusing note, I witnessed one of my former students being put in his place by a potential employer this week on television. Anybody indulge in the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency? She is a woman who speaks her mind and does not put up with any nonsense. Of course the beauty industry is a lot more brutal than life in a the classroom, but when I saw Janice Dickinson putting this former student of mine in his place, I couldn't help but think that I helped prepare him for that moment. I certainly had flashbacks to my interactions with him. (Don't get me wrong, he was a pretty good guy, but he needed a reality check from time to time.) Maybe some students never change--never gain more common sense--but at least he didn't wet himself or go running to his mom. Janice gave him brutal reality, and he took it like a man.

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