There is one teacher in our building who I will never forget. She is a big, strong, intimidating woman with a soft heart that kids don’t see until 3/4 of the school year is over. She walks around with a scowl on her face all day and never smiles. Actually, come to think of it, she does smile, but only when the kids are gone. “Force to be reckoned with” is an understatement. I sometimes find myself straightening up when she rounds the corner.
She came to class on Wednesday to help finish assessments. I sent the class to do seat work, and (surprise, surprise) they erupted in chatter. I resigned myself to another frustrating 20 minutes, when suddenly she bellowed from across the room, “Shut it! Nobody talk!” The whole room went silent. You could’ve heard a pin drop.
I looked around me in shock. Several kids glanced up at the imposing teacher with guilty faces then quickly buried their heads in their work. They looked as if her eyes could shoot lasers. I was stunned. My classroom felt like a classroom for the first time since the beginning of the year. Kids were busy at tables, squinting their brows, tracing over letters, and learning.
I spoke with her about it Thursday afternoon, and she told me, “Honey, that’s just what you gotta do. You give an inch, they’ll take a mile. Tell ’em to whisper, they’ll be screaming and shouting so much you won’t be able to hear yourself think.”
I asked her for advice.
“Honey, you just gotta be a bulldog. You gotta be a bulldog from day one. ‘Cause if you ain’t, they’ll walk all over you. I’m mean as hell when I first get my kids, but you wanna know something? They love me for it.
“There’s two things every kid wants,” she continued. “They wanna feel safe, and they wanna feel loved. You make ’em safe by being a bulldog. And when you keep ’em safe, they’ll know that you love ’em.”
from September 15, 2012.

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