The “Minerva McGonagall”

Around this time last year, I was super elated that my first year of teaching had gone so well. My students were decently behaved – well, most of them were at least. I taught a lot, we got a lot done. Nearly all my students passed pretty well, on their regular tests as well as on their CSTs. I learned a lot. I was energetic, and happy about starting the new year.

Perhaps too much so. I relaxed, and I crossed the big taboo of new teacher advice: Don’t crack a smile until after Christmas.

I didn’t just cross this piece of advice. I threw it out the window, set fire to it, and didn’t even watch the ashes float away. I started last school year chirpy, cheerful, and – now that there is enough time between now and then – downright annoying. From the first day, I smiled like I had just won the lottery.

And look where that got me and the class of 2016: fights, riots, fires, drugs, alcohol, defiance, stealing, lying, cheating, rudeness, crassness, violent kids and their parents all up in my grill, and the demise of the AP’s campus golf cart.

Not that it was entirely the fault of my first day smiles. We knew this class was a doozy – knew since they were in kindergarten, and all along the way as they moved up in the district schools, finally gathering together at the middle school level, leaving in their wake a trail of burnt out educators.

But my smiles probably didn’t help matters either. It could have been better. It could have been like the first day of the previous year – my first year – when students didn’t have the nerve to ask why I was grumpy all the time until post-Memorial Day.

It’s not that I want to be completely unapproachable as a teacher – but I want to keep up that boundary. I am a model of professionalism and decorum at school. When my own AP mistakes me for a student in a crowd, I have to hold myself up a little straighter and hone that teacher eye a bit sharper.

I think I also have to reconsider my wardrobe shopping sources. Less H&M and Hong Kong boutiques. More Banana Republic and Ann Taylor Loft. Ugh. I hate Ann Taylor Loft. Maybe J. Crew?

So I’m going to pull a Minerva McGonagall this year. I’ll keep a straight face and a tight reign on smiles and laughter. I’ll be the tense, stick-up-the-butt teacher again – probably because I AM actually tense again. I was tense that first day of my first year from pure nerves. I’m going to make myself that strict this year.

There is a snag: among the very first couple of lessons (the third day, if I’m not mistaken) I have something called the “Order of Operations Song and Dance” planned. It is a song and a dance. On the order of operations. I had learned it during a seminar last summer, and I loved it. I had ~95% proficiency on simplifying expressions using the order of operations standard the previous year. This year, I was up to 100% proficiency.

So. My dilemma is this: should I sacrifice proficiency for keeping a straight, zipped up face? I cannot dance the order of operations with a straight face. It wouldn’t be the point of the lesson, even if I could.

My current decision is to teach like Minerva until we review for the first benchmark test, which would be around mid-late October. Then I’ll pull out the order of operations dance to review AND I’ll have had a good month-and-a-half to show next year’s kids that I’m not to be crossed. Until I get a better idea, that’s the plan.


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