Ego: a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
One of the most consistent criticisms I have heard about teachers is when they show any kind of ego. Often this is for good reason – it is easy for issues of the ego to interfere with many aspects of daily business for a teacher… and honestly, for any employee in general. We are taught to put our egos aside for the duration of our workday because ego often distracts from the goals of any collective.
Anyone remember the first time they enforced a rule with a student and got that back-talk? When I enforced a rule the first time as a student teacher, I was surprised by the powerful resistance I received from the student. I was annoyed at Joseph for blurting out in class, and I sharply addressed him and told him to cut it out.
I shouldn’t be trying to be popular – I was there to do a job.
I’m a witty person, even if I do say so myself. Or rather, I consider myself to be. So when the student resisted, I reflexively deflected with a witty comeback. It felt good. Students laughed. The student laughed too and even relented, but I could sense the defiance as he complied. When he pretended nothing had happened and inevitably offended again the next day, I was less confident with my procedures. He knew my moves. He would be prepared and bolster himself for my counterattack. I would no longer have the advantage of surprise. It was the worst thing I could have done for my credibility. I shouldn’t be trying to be popular – I was there to do a job.
As a wiser teacher, I – along with the rest of you internet warriors, probably – know what I did wrong. I made the issue of discipline about me. He was not coming up against a system of regulations in place for his education – he was against me. I knew it, and he knew it. Even my wittiness, while solving the problem in the short-term, was destructive. It perpetuated the notion that this was me making him do things, me wanting him to be quiet, and that if he resisted or shot back, he would be shooting back at me. My cleverness revealed my investment. My ego and his were on the line. And who am I? I’m some adult. Why should he care?
From that moment, I made a conscious change. Rules are facts of life. So I treated them like it. Correction came with no emotion, no anger, no annoyance. My classroom policy became like gravity: even if you disagreed or didn’t know how it worked, you still knew how to prepare for it. There was no mercy, no leniency. It stopped being about me. Every day was a new day with no record. A new chance to succeed. It came to be about us maneuvering together in this world – finding out its rules in order to win.
Stories like this tend to tell the teacher that ego has no place in the classroom or the workforce. It may sound like I’m spreading that lesson now. I believe the opposite, however. I believe there has to be ego. It just needs to be placed correctly.
The message was clear – enforcing discipline was a routine, but teaching them was my life.
I’ve stated already that correction came with no emotion. This doesn’t mean I turned into a Terminator every time Joseph got riled up. Instead, whatever emotion I was feeling prior to the incident would perpetuate. I would correct someone mid-sentence, enforce, and move back to my lesson. On the rare occasion that I had to remove a student, I silently texted an advisor and made sure to greet the student the next day. The message was clear – enforcing discipline was a routine, but teaching them was my life.
Here is where ego belongs – in your work. I show my lessons to my students like I’ve just invented sliced bread. “Today’s a really good one, guys!” I show my excitement when they engage, and I pull out all the stops when I help with their work. My ego is in what I do. Most importantly, we’re on the same side. Model pride as a motivator, not as a weakness.
That’s where your emotion belongs, fellow teachers. Not with your peers, not with your administration, and not in your classroom management. Ego belongs in your teaching. Be proud of your work. Be proud of your students. Show the path to their success, not the blueprint of their failure. They know how they fail – they have other people to tell them, more than we probably assume. How is a student going to trust you in any way if they think you’re going to drop them at the first sign of imperfection? They don’t need more of those people in their lives.
Ego should be about pushing for success, not fearing failure.
Static characters are surprisingly a lot harder to find because they are easy to overlook. They don’t personally undergo any real journey other than the events of the plot – instead they tend to serve as a tool for the dynamic characters of a story to react to or receive guidance from. Here are four examples of static characters. I tried to avoid literary figures like Atticus Finch, so that students have room to talk about those once they understand the concept. I instead focused on making sure that these characters were prominent in pop culture to ensure that students would be able to see the concept at work with characters they already know.
If you’re looking for examples of dynamic characters, I wrote an article about that here.
I started the last one with a Dragon Ball character, so it’s time to start with one here. If that one worked with your audience, then this one will work for those same people.
I was tempted to start with Frieza, a villain, but I decided it would actually be a more effective example if I used a hero. Villains are easy. The idea is that they don’t change, so you don’t have to feel bad when the hero destroys them. A static hero, however… how do you explain that?
Static heroes were especially popular back in the day because it allowed an audience to pick up a series easily – what you see is what you get, and you can count on them to be that way because they’ll always be that way. What happens then is that the audience begins to see how the characters around him develop. Son Goku is no exception. It is his refusal to change that makes Vegeta’s transformation so stark in contrast.
The Benevolent Fighter
Son Goku starts the series Dragon Ball as a young boy. It is revealed when he is an adult that he is a Saiyan, an alien race subjugated by the evil Lord Frieza, and that he was sent to the Earth as a baby (named Kakarot) to destroy all life there to make the planet fit for sale to the highest bidder. However, a head injury as an infant causes Kakarot to become sweet and kind, a trait that stays with him into adulthood. Raised by an old martial artist named Son Gohan as a grandson (named Son Goku), the baby retains the strength and love of fighting possessed by his race, but his nature is converted by his head injury and perhaps most notably by his adoptive grandfather’s influence into that of a generous, loving hero.
Goku retains this nature as an adult, an immensely strong fighter who wouldn’t hurt a fly. However, for such a comedic, dopey, likable guy, he sure does have a huge body count. Goku’s love of fighting often gets him into trouble and interferes with his common sense, much to the chagrin of his comrades. His rival, Vegeta, is constantly developing as a character as a result of repeated attempts to surpass Goku. In fact, most of Goku’s friends were formerly dastardly villains that are won over by his constant, consistent optimism and unrivaled work ethic. In this way, Goku – like most static characters – serves as a device for all of the other characters to change and develop around him.
Steve Rogers/Captain America
This hero is definitely well-known, both in the comic world AND in popular culture as a result of cinematic success. (Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War).
A Patriot Lost in Time
Steve Rogers just wants to fight for his country, and he gets the chance to do so when he is recruited and made the only successful test subject for the Super Soldier Program. Frozen in ice while saving the world, Rogers unexpectedly finds himself in the 21st Century, with most of his friends old or dead. With augmented athletic abilities, and a strong sense of hope and optimism, he is regarded somewhat as the flagship member of the Avengers – and most of the time, the group’s leader.
Captain America’s moral compass is one that never wavers. You never wonder if you should or shouldn’t be cheering for Cap, even when he does things against the system. I found this especially true during Civil War: “Oh, Captain America is doing something weird? Well, he must be right, so let’s wait and see.” While he certainly changes physically, Captain America as we know it hardly ever changes.
If you’re about to quote the comics at me, shut up. Comics explore every single idea out there because otherwise they run out of story. Any prolific series is going to have an evil version, a cynical version, an elderly version, a child version, a werewolf version, a zombie version… The point is when you say “Captain America,” there will always be a very specific picture in your head. He is and always will be. He arguably has more of a “boy scout” rep than Superman does!
He’s Batman. Unless we’re referring to the Adam West goon, Batman is a pretty static hero – especially once the 90’s animated series was underway, as its popularity validated what the comics had begun doing in making his character dark and brooding.
A Force of Nature
Bruce Wayne will sometimes change, but his role as The Batman seldom does. Batman is smart, crafty, and has a ridiculous work ethic. His status as a static character does not mean that he is without flaws. He has definite trust issues that often lead to very explosive incidents with those involved – particularly the time when it was revealed that he had secret files recording the weaknesses of every Justice League member and how to exploit them in case any one of them went rogue.
Batman also has a very firm policy against killing that never seems to change – despite fighting some of the most deranged villains in comic book history, and despite suffering equally devastating losses at the hands of these villains.
Much of the interest in the Batman series comes from watching the dynamic characters around him. (Batgirl. Robin/Nightwing. Two-Face. Red Hood. The list goes on.) All of them owe their engrossing storylines to their interactions with the force of nature that is Batman. The first Robin, particularly, goes from worshipping him to resenting him – eventually becoming Nightwing and forcing his surrogate father to recognize him as an equal. Batman stays the same – no matter how the villains or even his friends try to force change on him.
Geralt of Rivia
Whether you’ve played Witcher 3 lately (I haven’t yet) and just entered the series, or you’ve been a long-time fan, it’s pretty plain that Geralt is a static hero. This doesn’t mean he’s not a badass: His character design is top-notch and distinct, with white hair, scars… he has a sword and a silver sword – come one. One for monsters, one for people right?
Sure Geralt has revelations and crises of identity – but for the most part, if you are reading or playing the Witcher series, you know exactly who you’re dealing with and what he’s going to be like.
One trait he has is a stubborn adherence to his personal code. Geralt, like most Witchers apparently, has a very specific job description; he has to kill monsters. Of course, there are wildly varying impressions throughout the world of exactly how necessary or serious this job is – though as you might imagine, respect for this job is usually directly proportional to how close a monster is to messing up the lives of those whose respect is in question. This means that sometimes he’ll get a job offer asking him to deal with a striga (a terrifying monster whose description involves the words “dead monster baby” and a tiny coffin). No problem. But in other places where the monster problem is less than common, they’ll offer jobs that let you know they obviously don’t take his job seriously. King or not, he will refuse these people. Need him to kill a dragon? Dragons don’t count as monsters to him, so no. Not to mention that for the most part, he refuses to work for free.
Well, actually it’s no hold barred for the video game, right? Fetch-em quests galore!
Geralt, for the most part, is cynical, sarcastic, and dismissive of authority. He is also very loyal to those rare few that become his friends. He has shown himself to be sympathetic to the plight of even monsters, despite his overt commitment to kill those in his path for money. He is well-aware of the fact that he literally eliminates work for himself as he does his job. I’m not currently aware of how exactly he got his powers or why he wants to be human again, but I find Geralt’s static nature to be a nice anchor when transitioning from setting to setting in his stories. Most of my journey with The Witcher is “Okay, that’s the person available, okay that’s the problem… whoa, this is interesting… where’s Geralt? Oh, there he is, good, okay I know how this story is framed now.” The experience feels a lot like watching anything based on Sherlock Holmes. (I would have used him in this article, but he’s not current in my mind, despite the riveting BBC present-day adaptation.)
Hopefully, this article helps you talk about static characters when you need it. If you have better ideas for current static characters, let me know in the comments or social media!
If you’re a Witcher die-hard that wants to tell me how Geralt is actually super dynamic, then take a moment, Internet Warrior, to reflect on your life, and on how being static isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and then also know that I’m like two books in, so if he suddenly becomes a villain or something that’s gonna come out of left field for me.
“People on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs. Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading.” – Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times Magazine
You’ll definitely hear me harp on Sesame Street from time to time. Sesame Street was a gift to my development as a child, teaching me lessons that I didn’t even know would be integral to life both as an adolescent and as an adult.
Here are some lessons that it taught me.
Put Down the Ducky
This musical number is seemingly innocuous – like most of Sesame Street. Ernie keeps hearing squeaking noises when he tries to play the saxophone, and it’s because he tries to play while holding onto his rubber duckie. The song tells him to put down the duckie.
I was using the phrase “put down the duckie” long after I watched this is a child; it was clear to me that if something is preventing you from doing what you want to do, then you need to learn to let go of that thing in your life. This can apply to bad habits, addiction… anything that keeps you from “playing the saxophone.” Sure, you can learn to accomplish your goals while compensating for this weakness that you refuse to give up, but if you know deep down inside that it’s time to let go, you’ll still hear that little squeak when you play.
This metaphor mixes up a little bit with the lighter concept of “it’s okay to let go – if it’s good for you then you’ll be able to pick it up again.” We know that Ernie’s relationship with the duckie is not in itself harmful – he just needs to let go of it for the moment. His friend assures him “you can just pick it up when you’re done!”
Being Proud of Yourself Doesn’t Mean You Need to Bring Others Down
This lesson needs to be taught more. I hear so many people talk about how important it is to have pride.
“I’m proud to be [insert race here]!”
“I’m proud to be a [man/woman/other]!”
Then they go and disparage others. “The white people do not understand blah blah” “You’re cisgender so blah blah.” “This meeting is only for [my group that I have pride in].”
In Fuzzy and Blue, Grover expresses his pride in being born fuzzy and blue. (“It’s just the way that I grew…”) He is joined by Harry Monster, and then Cookie Monster (“me just so fuzzy and blue!”) who enter seamlessly.
Then comes Frazzle. Frazzle is orange. Frazzle is a very different addition to the Sesame Street cast – his appearance is extremely fierce, with bright orange fur, a strong, thick unibrow, and an inability to speak English without a thick gurgle that renders him incomprehensible to non-monster ears. Grover is reluctant at first – or perhaps simply trying to comprehend the pull that Frazzle appears to feel for being involved in a song that is about pride in being blue. (“All right, all right, just thought I’d mention it!”) Then, although the song is practically over, they restart it for Frazzle and modify their refrain:
“We’re fuzzy and blue (and orange!)”
They do this with no outside prompting, no mediating parent, no supervisor, and no union intervention. It’s true – pride in oneself is important, and that involves knowing what it is you’re proud of. I can be proud of being tall – does that have to mean that I’m disparaging short people? No. Short people can be proud to be short, and I can agree with that pride without undermining my own pride.
Frazzle is different, and his friends support his difference and his pride in being different without any insecurity about themselves and what they value.
Interestingly, everything Frazzle says sounds the same (something directly addressed in the show). Who hasn’t made that comment about a foreign language before? Frazzle represents a foreign identity even to Sesame Street – which has monsters, but most of them are friendly colors.
Oscar the Grouch
Oscar the Grouch makes it very apparent that Sesame Street is not a perfect place. He is a misanthropic, grouchy monster that lives in a trash can. He doesn’t enjoy anybody’s company, nor does he want anything to do with learning any lessons.
Oscar is as close as it gets to being a social pariah – my memory isn’t amazing, but as far as I can recall he is the only character whom other characters chide and to whom they even suggest that he needs to change his ways. His life doesn’t look very nice, which could be a cautionary tale… or it could even suggest that Oscar is crying for help by making sure to surround himself with the people of Sesame Street. Whichever it is, Oscar’s grouchiness doesn’t keep the people around him from talking to him or involving him in their conversations.
Sesame Street – with Oscar – is now a complete image. It is not an idyllic, utopian place, it’s a ghetto. Yet, the show is adamant that the place is amazing, with everyone wanting to know “how to get to Sesame Street.” The people (and monsters) of Sesame Street aren’t trying to leave – instead, their reaction to the hand they’ve been dealt is to watch each other’s backs.
The relevant links can be found below, but I want to take this opportunity to make a point. I’m not saying Sesame Street is a gem to the world of television (it is, but I mean that it’s not my main point). I’m saying that the kid shows you put your child in front of have lasting effects that go beyond the obvious – and certainly go beyond that stage of development. We remember the things we see, and they DO stick with us. So the next time you let TV do the babysitting… it’s worth thinking about what you’re letting your kid be inundated with.
Either that or communicate regularly with your child. Crazy talk, I know.
NOTE: Old School Sesame Street and modern, HBO Sesame Street are not the same beasts. As a result, some people argue that old school Sesame Street might not be suitable for children today, as a lot of the concerns modern parents have were not voiced or even present back then. We’re talking a depressed talking elephant that only one character can see, a homeless misanthrope, and a scene where Cookie Monster eats a pipe. If these sound shocking to you, then you know not to watch. If it just sounds like pre-hipster age television, then enjoy.
Or again, you could show it and then just talk to your kids.
I know it’s been a while since I updated the blog. I am still alive, no worries! I realize though that sometimes I don’t use the blog as a blog – look at these entries, they’re like little articles! That’s all well and good, but sometimes I don’t have a topic that I want to harp on but I still need to write to get my thoughts in order, so I’ll put something out like this that just gives a little update.
I’ve made a pledge to get the Podcast out on time, and I intend to keep it. All 7 of you that listen, hear me now! I will get the Podcast out on time! I’ve received compliments from everyone who has listened… but honestly, that could just be because they like me. I’ll be looking for ways to connect with my audience in the future. That’s a win-win, because if it’s other people I’ll get to network and discuss fun stuff, and if it’s just people I know then I’ll just be keeping in touch with them – which is nice to do if they’re showing me love by listening to my Podcast.
(… why am I capitalizing Podcast everywhere? I’m not sure. Maybe because I keep having to make it part of a title. It reminds me of how I used to spell “receive” wrong. I would stubbornly put the i before the e.)
I recently had some new equipment roll in, and the most recent episode is using my condenser microphone from back in my college days. I’ve also bought theme music, and I am enormously satisfied. The instructions involved the words “catchy bass line,” which… tell me that’s not catchy!
Some of my students discovered my Podcast and listened to it in lieu of music during their work time. It was a somewhat strange situation; my students were listening to me talk in front of me doing work for my class, occasionally chuckling and sharing something I said with me as if we were talking about a YouTuber we both watched. I appreciated the love.
Weirdo kids, haha.
I’ve started an experiment regarding teacher interaction. I noticed that students were extremely defensive when beginning an interaction; in particular, the standard acknowledgment of being addressed was “What?!” or “Huh?” The first one was a sign of being on guard, the second one to buy time while they figured out if they were in trouble. I decided that I wanted an interaction that was guaranteed to be positive, one in which they wouldn’t have to wonder if what I said to them was going to be positive or negative. No guessing games.
So, I decided that every Friday, I would acknowledge a student in each period that I judge to be “killing it” and acknowledge their success, along with a small boon of candy. The reaction so far has been very positive, with students applauding their peers enthusiastically. I rather like the idea of looking for reasons to reward students instead of looking for reasons to take points away.
I’ve gotten back into reading recreationally in a big way (and the worn case on my Kindle is starting to show it)! After reading the new Stormlight Archive book, I decided that I might do some blog entries that are character studies of the characters I really liked in the series, which hopefully would attract the attention of fellow enthusiasts and stir discussion up about them. Yeah, either that or people will read the books – or, barring that, they’ll just read what I have to say about them and find the insights interesting.
In order to do that, I decided to reread the first two books – a monstrous task, but one I’m really enjoying. I’m about 70% of the way through the 2nd book, and I think I started with the first book about – what, early January? I’m not 100% sure. I’m 20% sure that I was 40% of the way through 56% of the series so far after about three-fourths of the month had –
I’m trolling. Don’t try to follow those numbers. Suffice it to say with a disturbingly visual figure of speech that I’ve been devouring the books despite it being a reread.
I also started looking at doing some writing on Medium, but only after I get the flow down for this blog and the Podcast. Don’t want to take on too much and just suck at all of it!
I promise to update with stuff about the Napa Google Summit and Dragon Ball FighterZ thoughts soon. This weekend is going to be STUFFED!
I plan to release something fun musically soon as well.
“Do what it takes,” I say. “Don’t let things happen to you… instead, make you happen to other things.”
This is all part of my push to teach high schoolers how to become professionals. One of the key rites of passage in my life was when I simply decided to stop making excuses.
It’s a small wonder that students become so keen to rationalize failure; when they’re young, they learn very quickly that they don’t have power over their own lives. The frustration that comes from not being allowed to make one’s own choices either festers into anger or stagnates into resignation. Then this lack of control becomes a convenient excuse for failure. This is not permanent, however; starting with high school, their choices suddenly matter – only someone seems to have forgotten to tell them about it.
“Do what it takes.” The premise sounds simple, but execution can seem agonizingly demanding to a student unused to accepting agency over his or her own performance. “My printer didn’t work!” a student would say to me, as if I had somehow failed to provide resources when giving an assignment.
“Oh. I guess you should just give up.” I reply. A sheepish grin is quick to break out over the student’s face then as they inevitably hear what they sound like. That’s when I hit them with all of the things they could have done. This list is very similar to below:
Print it at school?
Text a classmate? (After all, they have to turn the assignment in too…)
Bike to the library?
Tell your parents?
Email ME, the one person who can grant pardons and stays of executions?
Take a selfie with the finished assignment in case they needed to verify that it was done on time?
Email it to a classmate to print?
Go to Kinko’s?
Make a handwritten version in a last-ditch effort to create a submittable hard copy?
The point is not that I expect students to spend money or anything like that – at least, not specifically. The point is to do what it takes. Nobody cares about your story unless you have results. No boss wants to hear excuses. They do want to hear crazy success stories. The crazier the story, the prouder you can be! Don’t try to impress me with how bad your luck is. Impress me with how far you went to make sure you got done what needed to be done. Try an idea instead of waiting for me to feed it to you when you tell me your life is impossible.
As more technology makes things more convenient, it’s amazing how life seems to be so much more difficult. “I couldn’t do it.” has a subtext of “it wasn’t convenient enough.” Really? Do you own a phone? Then you have access to pretty much the entirety of humankind’s collective knowledge. There was a time when writing a paper meant you had to visit the library and pore over volumes of text while being shushed by a lady who looked like a human raisin. Now you can do it in some cases without even looking at your phone.
More than a mantra to repeat through the year, this simple concept of doing what it takes has been the theme bolstering my new curriculum and my attitude about putting in work hours. It wasn’t long before this concept led to regular attendance of Saturday School.
I should explain. The school at which I work has a program called START Saturday School. I’m sure there’s something clever that START stands for, but I have no idea at this moment what it is. What I do know is that it’s basically 4 hours out of the day on Saturday when students can receive help, feedback, and attention that they need. As if that’s not enough, the school gets back funds lost from the same students being absent during the week. Teachers are also able to work general tutoring or, with groups of 15 or more, be in their rooms and give additional lessons and/or customized support to suit the needs of their students. Teachers are paid for their time, and I’ve had the pleasure of telling students to come in on Saturday for more support and them of watching the relief appear on their faces.
I couldn’t tell students to do what it takes, and then also tell them that coming in on Saturday was not worth it to me. So I started attending regularly.
This time has proven repeatedly to be worth it, and I find myself regularly inspired by the opportunity to show students that extra effort is met with a similar effort on my part. I also find that without the pressure to lesson plan, the four hours become some of the most productive ever (for the students), because they feel like I am there specifically to answer their questions, rather than to screen their inquiries while I push my lesson out.
Teachers, if your school has a Saturday School program like this, I implore you to go, and to push it on your students like it’s a new iPhone. Saturday School has proven not to be the chore it sounded like in my staff email inbox; instead, it has proven to be a regular reminder of why I became a teacher: to help students and lead by example.
More importantly, the generation needs to learn how to do what it takes. We live in a society that thinks “bring me solutions, not problems” means to not talk about problems we can’t solve. No. It means that we don’t accept no for an answer. Even a “sort of yes” beats a no any day. If you aim for the A, you might get a B, which is better than an F.
The point is nobody can begin to meet you halfway if you decide the path is too hard. We’re pack animals – gregarious beings that compensate for the failures of the individual through numbers and diverse offerings – but in order for that to happen, everyone needs to offer what they have instead of not coming out at all. Sometimes your part is to just put what you have on the table until someone comes along that needs what you have.
This starts with you doing YOU first so you can get to that point. For some individuals on this Earth, that starts in MY classroom, doing what it takes. I’ve made it my mission to ensure that if it starts there, it won’t end there.
This debate is one that often transcends any single plane of argument. One minute it’s about logistics, the next it’s about ethics. The situation starts as a simple hypothetical: A student asks to use the restroom in the middle of your class, at a time when you’ve just started getting your class into gear. What do you do?
Online, I’ve noticed that there are several lines drawn here. Parents almost unanimously cry foul at a teacher’s refusal, citing human rights for why their angels should be allowed to use the restroom whenever they feel the need, and that furthermore, they shouldn’t feel pressured to put themselves out in any way upon feeling said urge – the teacher needs to just let them go and suck it up, they say.
Students feel the same way – “We’re young adults, you can’t tell us what to do. Just go, no matter what the teacher says.”
Teachers are divided: Half say “Don’t let them go.” The other half says “Go, you don’t want to get sued, especially if admin won’t back you up.” Sad truth.
I will first tell you my bathroom policy, followed by my responses to these arguments.
I tell my students that my class is like a car ride, and that they need to go before they get in the car. If they ask to use the restroom, I use Classcraft to take 10HP from them with a preset called “Go on your own time,” or I say “No.” until they ask again. I do tell them that they are at my mercy, as in my class I am the Morning and Evening Star.
Is this a power trip? No. I will explain.
First of all, this argument needs to be put into context so that I don’t have a swarm of Common Sense Media parents clamoring for my execution. I teach high school. Young adults, they’re called. Not elementary students. My policy is based heavily on this factor. The three skills that I focus on in my class are the same that I would want my own kids to develop as young adults, and they’re the same traits that pushed me into adulthood and maturity. Students find that mastering these three things is the only thing they have to do to be sure they will do well in my class – the rest happens by itself, usually.
Phan’s Trinity of Maturity
At my school, students are given a passing period to use the restroom, etc. and of course breaks and lunch. If students don’t use the restroom during this time, then they are not managing their time, and they are certainly not prioritizing their own well-being.
What about a medical condition or an emergency?
The contingency I do allow is reliant on the 3rd skill. If you have a medical condition or an emergency, you need to adequately and effectively communicate it. That’s just survival.
My child shouldn’t have to humiliate themselves in front of the class to use the restroom.
Then certainly it’s their job – or at the very least the PARENT’S job if the student is determined to be helpless – to tell the teacher ahead of time and work out some kind of signal system if they have a condition… I mean, it’s not like effectively conveying need in an emergency situation in a quick and efficient manner is a life skill or anything.
Communication is the major skill here, because I’m not a robot! If you can convey the gravity of the situation, you probably have nothing to worry about. It’s about knowing why the system is in place. The system says nobody can go, but the system is not in place to stop people with full bladders. It’s to facilitate learning.
If you need to pee and you’re not just trying to escape class because you’re bored, then you’ll have no worries, because you’ll have no problem finishing the sentence you’re on before going. You won’t have any qualms about handing over your phone while you’re gone either, right? Since you’ll be right back and it’s not like you were going to call your friends or tweet for 45 minutes and come back when the bell rings?
It’s messed up to take points away for having to use the bathroom in class!
If you really need to go, you can’t control it, right? It’s like having bad weather that cancels your practice. If you take the hit, then work extra hard to make up for the hit! That’s being responsible. If you accidentally break something, you still own up. If you have to go to the bathroom, it’s not the teacher’s fault, it’s not your classmates’ fault, so obviously it comes down to you to deal with the issue – and sometimes that means taking the hit. You know what? Life will go on. I don’t know what the aversion is to losing points for things that aren’t anyone else’s problem. That’s life. If I’m paid by the hour for a job and an asteroid strikes my car and keeps me from going to work, I’m not going to insist I get paid anyway. No, I take the hit. If your dog eats your homework, you take the hit and then in the future you take better care of your homework – and your dog.
And as for the student insistence that they have the freedom to just “go, no matter what the teacher says?” That’s true, you have that freedom. A teacher won’t bodily stop you. I can technically walk out of the classroom whenever I want, too.
You see, freedom comes only to those who accept the consequences. If a teacher forbids you to go, and you need to go, then by all means go. Then take the referral the teacher writes you, serve the detention, whine about it to your mom, and sleep soundly knowing you were in the right. Then use your knowledge of your teacher’s jerk attitude and the system to avoid having to go in their class anymore.
As for getting sued… well, honestly, no teacher can do anything if they fear being sued. My advice for that is usually just to be smart, be transparent, and always do your very best to do what’s right in your heart, and the world will have a hard time condemning you.
Yeah, sometimes I’m more naive than the students. I don’t really see how anyone who isn’t an idealist in some fashion or another can become a teacher, though.