One of the little girls at my colleague’s lunch table raised her hand and since I was closest to her I asked her what she needed. She point to her right and said, “She says you’re mean.” I just smiled and said, “Well, people are wrong all the time.”
I know my reputation with some of the children and parents who do not know me- Mean Mrs. Maurer. Sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? I understand the reasons behind the label. I have a deep stern voice. I’m old and set in my ways. I insist on good behavior. I teach personal responsibility. I operate a very structured classroom. I’m often blunt and “matter-of-fact”. I don’t do “cutesy”. I don’t beg or cajole or bribe; I just expect. And my students know from day one that I expect them to “look, listen, learn”, give me their best behavior, and do their best work. It’s part of our class creed that we read each and every day.
I am a smart child and I like being me.
I am proud to be a kindergartner in
Mrs. Maurer’s class.
Each day I will be respectful to myself
I will try my hardest to be the best
that I can be.
I will succeed.
The ironic thing is that most students-even shy ones, bossy ones, and defiant ones- respond to my mean ways and by the third week we are laughing and hugging and having a great time. None of my students fear me. Perhaps they are fearful of misbehaving or of disappointing me, but not fearful of me personally. I was told this year that one of my students might not talk to me because she is so shy. She comes up to my desk and chatters all the time! We have already shared some great stories. And a boy who has the potential to be a behavior problem has already calmed down and settled into our routine. Children are much smarter than we sometimes assume and they are quick judges of character. They appreciate consistency. They thrive on routine and structure because it allows them to know what is going on and predict the outcomes of their actions.
I love children. I love their honesty, their creativity, and their exuberance. And I love the challenge of teaching them. I have been bitten, hit, kicked, defied, cursed, and yelled at by children, but I have never responded in kind. I’ve never hurt a child because I’m the adult: I’m the role model. Yes, I can be loud; my whole family is loud. I can be stern; I’m a mother and grandmother and I don’t back down easily. But mean? I don’t think so.