As an incoming corps member, wanting my students to like me is something I’ve thought about before, but it’s been on my mind more lately in light of this story. In case the link doesn’t work for you (or if you’re like me and just don’t want to visit the link; I know sometimes I get sick of clicking on links and getting redirected), I’ll just briefly summarize what’s going on: A couple of days ago, a middle school girl posted the following message on facebook, “I wish Osama bin Laden had killed [my teacher] instead of the 3,000 people in the Twin Towers.” Whoa. That’s pretty extreme. She was suspended from school and I think that this was the extent of the disciplinary action taken against her. My post really isn’t really about her, though. I just thought the story was interesting and relevant to what I am talking about, which is not wanting my students to hate me. I can’t imagine how I could anger a student so much that she would wish I had died in a terrorist attack. I think most teachers want to be liked, to a certain extent (except for the really evil, misanthropic ones who shouldn’t be teaching anyway). While I think we all know that it’s more important that we help our pupils grow academically than whether or not our students want to be our “BFF,” I’m pretty sure that none of us want to be seen as a “mean” teacher. Strict, maybe, but not mean.
I’m a recent college grad; not so far removed from an academic milieu that I don’t remember what it’s like to have teachers I strongly dislike. Most of my teachers were great; even if they weren’t super-nice, they were respectful and I got along with them. But there were about three throughout my K-12 experience (and one in college) who were real a**holes. I don’t want to be that a**hole. I’m pretty sure my kids won’t hate me, but even many nice teachers can have little to no fans if they give too much homework or are not lenient enough. I plan on challenging my students and making them work hard, and I will not compromise just so that they will love me. (And anyway, if I am too nice then they won’t respect me. I’ve learned that adults are this way too, but that’s another story….). Though I was a good student, I remember that there were certain classes I hated, because I thought the teacher was out to ruin our lives. Meaningless stuff to memorize here, an impossibly esoteric exam there, doing group projects all the time (To this day I still hate working in groups), giving us homework on the very first day of school, etc. I could go on, but what I’m saying is, I remember all of that. Vividly. Although it’s inevitable, I don’t want any of my students to feel about my classroom the way I felt toward many of mine growing up. I want to be “nice” and I want my classroom to be “fun.” I don’t have any illusions; I know there will be times when the students don’t feel like coming to my class, or feel like I’m being too hard on them, or whatever. I’m not trying to be the Mary Poppins of Detroit. I’m just saying that it would be nice if I could be.