Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Meanest Teacher

So my daughter started kindergarten this week. When I asked her about her first day, she announced that it was good, they didn’t get to go outside (because of rain), and that her teacher was “really nice -- and likes me!”

The power of a teacher is never more apparent than it is the first week of school. Elementary students cross their fingers that their teacher is “nice” since they spend so much time with the same teacher. Middle and high school students compare schedules and trade stories, rumors, suspicions, and giggles about the teacher names on their new schedules.

It made me think about this wonderful article I read recently about a former Hillsborough teacher who recently passed away -- and who wrote his own obituary. http://www.tampabay.com/news/obituaries/teacher-curmudgeon-wrote-it-his-way/2242079

I never knew or met Mr. Joab. I never even heard of him until I read the article in the Tampa Bay Times.

But I was struck by him, particularly by the things he (and his former students) said about his class.

Mr. Joseph M. Joab wrote that his “high standards for the junior high and high school students he taught got him labeled as the ‘meanest, evil-est, bad-est, nastiest’ teacher on campus.” His self-written obituary notes that “Since the number of former students wishing to ‘dance on his grave’ could create a traffic jam, there will be no graveside service”.  

But seriously. I’m a little jealous of  Mr. Joeb’s reputation! I tried, but I was never called the “meanest teacher” for more than a class period or two. Sigh...

But as I think of Mr. Joab and what he meant to his former students, I kind of wish my students called me some of those names because I had made them work so hard.

A former student said, of Mr. Joab, “When I was his student, he was difficult, frustrating, and demanding. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized he was difficult because he needed to challenge me, frustrating because he wouldn’t let me be lazy”

“He continued to keep pushing”, another former student said, “his message being, ‘do it all the way, or don’t do it at all.’”

It’s the first week of school. As you get into the routines, learn the students, and make your reputation known, you don’t have to be the “meanest, evil-est, bad-est, nastiest” teacher on your campus (unless that’s already your thing. Hey, I don’t judge).

But be the teacher who drives his or her students crazy -- because you CHALLENGE those students

Be the teacher who makes your kids think and work HARD. I hope you challenge kids. I hope when they see your name on their schedules that they think, “Oh boy. I have Mr. or Ms. So-and-So. I am going to have to WORK!”

And then, keep that in mind as the year progresses. You wear a million hats as a teacher -- you wear an instructional hat, a relationship hat, a mentor hat, a team-member hat, etc. Don’t forget to wear your CHALLENGER hat.

Make ‘em think. Make ‘em work. Start now.

PS -- I hope you’re really not the meanest teacher. I hope your students will someday write about you the way Mr. Joab’s former kids wrote about him: “He liked to get the kids to think”.

I can’t think of a much better legacy for a teacher.

As always, I love to hear from you! Email me at newmantr@pcsb.org

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