My students talk over top of me and each other. A lot. This semester, my ninth graders are much worse than my eleventh graders, but that wasn't the case last semester. Today, after fourth block left, I found a note complaining that I yell all the time. Now, a certain amount of "all the time" can be attributed to teenage hyperbole, but I can't say I've never raised my voice in our classroom. I'm human, as my CI from grad school still helps me to remember. And as a human, I'm getting fed up with some students making inappropriate jokes, yawning in my face, and talking whenever they can find a space.
I've tried a lot of things -- talks in the hallway, staying after to help
students come up with plans to focus more, a few whole-class discussions about why the amount of chatting is a problem. I've had some success, but I remain really frustrated. I know I could be authoritarian and send kids who are repeat offenders to the office. They also seem to quiet down when I do some sort of direct instruction. So, I could just lecture all of the time. Neither of those options seem particularly appealing to me. I want a classroom where students learn to think and act critically but also show respect while doing so. This desire proves to be a tall order.
While hashing things out with some of my wonderful, wonderful colleagues, I mentioned the community meetings I've been trying on Friday where we air things out and try to
figure out how to make the next week better. One of my fellow teachers said this could be a problem. That she wants her students to express their opinion when it comes to content, but that she never wants them to have a say in classroom management. I think that line of thinking makes a lot of sense to a lot of teachers. Someone else pointed out you wouldn't voice a major concern in a faculty meeting, you'd go to the administrator in question to discuss issues.
But I just can't see myself teaching in that sort of classroom. I want students to feel empowered and to find a voice at school so they don't hate it and drop out or not get anything from it. I also want my students to show respect toward each other and me. Are these desires that at odds or have I just not figured out how to get them there yet?