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.