Education Opinion

Who’s Your Mommy?

By Hanne Denney — May 14, 2006 2 min read
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On Monday I gave the best lecture ever to my students. I’m calling it the “Mother’s Day Speech” from now on. I had them trembling, cowed, even a little afraid of me. Here’s what happened:

I had to leave one of my classes in the hands of a substitute teacher. The students knew there was going to be a sub, and I had reviewed the assigned tasks to them ahead of time. I was attending a meeting during this class, and students knew I was in the building. Still, they reverted to toddlerhood in my absence, apparently forgetting any rules or manners.

When I returned to my classroom later that day, I found tiny globs of red and white sticky stuff EVERYWHERE. Apparently there had been a breakfast battle in my classroom. I found the note from the sub telling me which students had thrown the pastry, and at whom. I learned that right after this class a fight broke out between two students, apparently a carryover of tensions that had built up. I had to report three students for throwing food (when they’re not even allowed to eat in the room), one for name-calling/bullying, and one for using foul language. I gave three detentions to clean up my room. I apologized to the custodial staff for the mess. I picked up trash.

The next day I was having a VIP visitor to observe these ninth graders. I had been, up until that morning, very proud of this class.

So on Tuesday morning I refused to open the doors to the class until it was time for class to begin. I sat in silence for two minutes and then quietly began to speak. Here’s the gist of it. “If you were at home, and your Mommy had to go to work, would you go into the kitchen and start throwing food around? If you did, when your Mommy came home, what would she do? I suspect she would yell, make you clean it up, and ground you. She certainly would not leave you alone again, because you could not be trusted. But she would still love you, because she is your Mommy.

“I am not your mommy. And I am not feeling any love right now. I am your teacher, and I need your respect in order to give respect back to you. I am sorry I invited this visitor today, because I am no longer proud of this class. Now let’s get to work.”

You can guess how it ended. The visitor came, the students worked like they have never worked before, and I was proud of them. I am proud of them. On this Mother’s Day I am thinking about my speech, and the fact that I do feel a bit like a parent to all of them. I am sad when they disappoint, and extremely proud when they rise to a challenge. I am looking back at what they were like when they arrived in my world in August, and I am looking ahead to where I hope they are going. OK, I’ll admit it. I am feeling the love

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