30 Goals Challenge for Educators: Goal # 6: Choose Your Battles

Goal # 6: Choose your battles:

Oh, battles!. I´ve been there so many times!. I can´t help it: I teach teenagers, I am Italian descendant and Argentinian. I was born in the city and have lived in the “city” all my life. Never got used to it, though. We, “City People”, battle every single second of our lives: when we walk, cross the street, commute daily...it is always an adventure with an unknown ending. "It's survival in the city, when you live from day to day, city streets don't have much pity,when you´re down, that´s where you´ll stay"  so, sometimes I feel, we are some kind of survivors from a tv show, that is why every time I am asked “How are you doing?”...I reply: “I will survive”, like Gloria Gaynor. I mentioned that before, I have a some for a every state of mind. There is another phrase or answer I have to that "How´re you doing?" question which is "¡¿Cómo estás?!" (How are you?) ...and I say “Sobreviviendo” (Just surviving) as Víctor Heredia sings...You see? Another song, this time one from a local musician, wonderful composer and lyricist. Some may think he talks about a certain time in history but I take the song as my personal "anthem": it is all about choosing peace not war, life not death, good not bad, love not hate.

However, our battles inside a class are different, at least for me because I have taught teenagers since 1987, and generations have evolved too much since then. Nowadays, adolescents are not the same as the ones in the nineties or those in the beginning of this century. Since I started teaching back in my country, I have been working really hard on my professional development and discovered a wonderful author called Michael Linsin whose blog, “Smart Classroom Management” and his book “Dream Class”, have made me rethink what I was doing inside the class, brainstorm with a future project on giving advice on classroom management to new teachers and also to not so new ones too, who sometimes need to recharge batteries and add some oil to their engines. (I have been watching Pixar´s Cars a lot lately!)
In his article “Why Picking Your Battles Is a Poor Strategy”, he says that picking your battles only causes more misbehavior, resentment and although it might work with some “difficult” students and/or classes, it will prevent us from creating the well-behaved classroom we really want. On the contrary:

-It causes resentment.
-We, teachers lose trust.
-It´s confrontational.
-It encourages arguing.
-It causes disrespect.
-It’s unnerving to students: (my favorite one!): "How does one go about picking battles? Is it based on the severity of the misbehavior, who is doing the misbehaving, the teacher’s mood at the time? The truth is, leaving classroom management so haphazardly defined causes tension and anxiety and creates a climate students don’t want to be part of." Michael Linsin.

Teaching in Argentina has turned a little more complicated than it was before, because our society has undergone many, I would say too many severe crisis: economical and psychological ones as a consequence. The ones who suffer the most are the children, and at our school we try to turn misbehaved students and “warriors” into good soldiers, ready to battle life outside the nice, cozy and comfortable school environment. I cannot stop thinking of those sad events at Sandy Hook or even here, in a small town called Carmen de Patagones. Unfortunately, violence asks for violence, Peace brings peace. Do not give way to "battles" in our classrooms, let us free them from the stress and wasted time. Just do some System Restore, clean that annoying update and bring back peace and restoration to our favorite place: our class. Stick to your classroom management plan, I am talking about well-taught and consistent classroom rules, seek help from a colleague: ask him to watch your class, encourage students´positivism and bear in mind that sometimes peace is better than being right. (Borrowed from Theodora´s blog).