Friday, November 28, 2014

Year 5: Week 13 – Tannnnnnnng

One of the other teachers in my department leads a extra-curricular before school choir. Many of my third graders are in this group and the teacher one morning said my name emphasizing the “n” sound and the kids mimicked him and giggled at his silliness.

Now whenever I see these third graders in the hallway they greet me as Mr. “Tannnnnnng.” It’s funny, they get a kick out of it and I don’t really mind.

I’ve always been a teacher that students feel like they can joke around with. When I was student teaching I was constantly reminding students to call me “Mr. Tang” instead of simple “Tang.” I’m that teacher who walks into a lunchroom and is greeting by choruses of students greeting me and screaming my name. And as much as I admonish the practice giving out high fives for no reason, I can’t walk down the hallway without students trying to high five me.

I’d be lying if I told you that part of me didn’t love this adulation. However the fun outside the classroom often brings up challenges in the classroom.

Yes, some of the third graders figured out not to chant “Tannnnnnng” in the middle of class, while others did not. This required me to react sternly to help them understand that they needed to make an adjustment with how they interacted with me in classroom.

The same issue has been present with a couple of my 5th graders. During the Lorado Taft trip, I would eat meals with the kids and joke around with them in the cabins. While this was a lot of fun, some students tried to carry that into the classroom during the past two week. This led to conversations about timing and thinking about the classroom agenda.

I find my middle school students generally have less issues switching from joking in the hallways to respecting me as a teacher in the classroom. By 8th grade, many of the kids who enthusiastically greeted me in the past have started pretending to not see me in the hallways. These kids will greet me if I say “good morning,” but they don’t make as much of an effort to engage with me. However, there are still a couple students who through 8th grade and into high school scream my name when they see me coming down the hallway.

It’s not all easy with 8th graders because sometimes out friendliness leads to them forgetting that I am an authority figured and at times I need to put them in their place when they take my relaxed approach for granted. With my 8th grade band I don’t have a structured beginning of class routine, because I want to challenge them to take care of their own business. Some years this works great, but this year, it has led to tardiness, which means I have to be stricter in the coming weeks.

There are times when I’m really feeling this issue of trying to teach my students how to code switch from how we interact in the hallways to our classroom relationship and it can get very annoying as a teacher.  I could avoid all of this by being less approachable to my students and not having as many informal outside of the classroom interactions.

I would rather struggle with this and have these talks with my students than have them feel less comfortable interacting with me.  It is more difficult to have a nuanced relationship with your students that changes according to the circumstance than to simply be an authority figured.  But it's worth the struggle.  Striking this balance is based on mutual respect, a desire to have positive interactions, and a willingness to let students step in these puddles and help them work through these mistakes.

Also, if you are going to call me "Tannnnng" you better not get annoyed at the way I distort your name. . .  

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