All That Attitude


When I mention that I teach middle school, two things happen:  1) I get blessed, as in, “Oh, bless you – that’s not an easy job.” and 2) I get asked how I  handle all that attitude.

But the reality is, I don’t get much attitude from students.  The eye rolling, shrugging, hair flipping, steely-eyed glaring – I see very little of it.  Correction:  I see very little of it directed at me. However, I do see it directed at other adults.  So why not at me in my classroom?

It’s not because I terrify them.  Spend an hour in my classroom and you’ll pick up on that, as the teasing goes both ways.  But I do demand respect, and that, too, goes both ways.  And that may be part of the answer:  I treat my students with respect.  Teens match their tone of voice to the tone being used with them, so I try to keep mine calm.  I can’t do it all the time – sometimes I’m too frustrated – but more often than not, I keep my cool.

The other part of the answer is a little trick I call “intentional ignorance.”  For example, if I’ve had to tell a student that she can’t play in a basketball game because of low grades, and she throws herself into her seat and glares at me, I will pretend not to see her little tantrum.  Unless she gets so loud that she’s disrupting the class, I will turn a blind eye to her antics until she settles down.  If she does get disruptive, I’ll (calmly) ask her to visit another classroom until she has herself under control.

Why don’t I have to deal with “all that attitude?” Probably because I choose to ignore it – and not to return it.



Zipping It


Yesterday at the Spring Fair, I enjoyed watching little daredevils riding the mobile zip line.  A young man of about 7 or 8 shared my enjoyment, shouting as he walked by, “WOW! That is SO COOL!!”

My smile turned to a frown as I heard him whine, “Ow!”  Turning around, I saw his chin clamped in his father’s hand.  Through clenched teeth his dad barked, “Didn’t I tell you to stop yelling?  Why don’t you listen?”  The little guy rubbed his chin and looked at his dad with fearful eyes as they walked away.  I wanted to tap Dad on the shoulder and ask, “Can I show you a better way?”  Because soon that boy will be 13, and his dad will find that grabbing him will only make things worse.

In my fantasy world, I would advise the dad to stop walking, get down on his son’s level, and agree that yes, it is cool, BUT – yelling about it isn’t okay because he might disturb other people.  He could then ask his son to repeat what he’d said, but in a quieter tone.  And here’s the important part:  a few minutes later, when Junior expressed how excited he was about something else – but in a lower voice – Dad could smile and say, “That’s how you do it!”

Fast forward several years.  The son bursts in the door yelling, “I’M STARVING!  WHAT IS THERE. . . ” As he catches his dad’s warning eye, he lowers his voice, “. . .to eat?”  Without grabbing, yelling, or even speaking a word, the message has been sent and received.

And nobody’s rubbing his chin.

Emergency Info


An informal poll of 7th and 8th graders confirmed what I’d suspected: many of them don’t know important emergency information, such as home numbers or parents’ cell phone numbers.  Even more don’t know their complete addresses. Some wrote the house number and street but neglected to list the city, while a few didn’t know any part of the address.

The phone number issue is an easy one to explain:  to reach home or their parents, most of them just bring up the number on their cell phones.  My question is always, “What happens when your battery’s dead and your friends don’t have your mom’s number in their phones?”  Being resourceful techno kids, they assure me they’d borrow a smart phone and look up whatever they needed.

So is it still important for 21st century teens to memorize phone numbers and addresses?  I vote yes.  Phones get lost or damaged, cell service isn’t always reliable, and internet strength varies from location to location.  In a crisis or an emergency, the only way to reach home or parents may be to give pertinent information to a helpful adult – information that can’t be given if it isn’t memorized.

It’s a skill expected of most 7-year-olds; shouldn’t it also be expected of kids twice that age?



It’s Rated R For A Reason

Rated RLast week when we were discussing spring break plans, Amelia said she wanted to see the new Selena Gomez movie.  When I pointed out that it was rated R, she said that wasn’t a problem: “My mom will take me.”

I looked up the movie on and read the Parent Guide notes aloud.  After hearing several descriptions of drug use, nudity, and sexual situations, Amelia looked alarmed.  “I didn’t know all that was in there,” she said.  “I just thought the previews looked funny!”

The MPAA ratings may have their flaws, but they do serve a purpose, when parents heed them.   Had Amelia’s mom taken her to see the film without doing some checking first, it could’ve been uncomfortable and awkward for everyone.  There are several sites besides IMDB; Kids-in-Mind and Common Sense Media provide good info for parents (you can click on either name to access the site).

Teens – especially young teens – are forming their morals and values based partly on what they observe adults doing.  It’s important for the adults closest to them to guide them in making good choices.

And maybe to do a little research for them.