Arrgh. I do not know, people. I somehow manage to be massively frightening and intimidating to large numbers of my students here (or they are just always looking silent and scared and dumbstruck) and at the same time I get tons of disrespectful, boundary-pushing behavior from others. My "actual" class persona is only slightly silly and fairly brisk and clipped, so in response to student freakouts and that terrified look on their faces I dial it back, way back, and go way way against my usual style to be as inoffensive and unintimidating as possible. I'm sure that this reads to some other students as "pushover" or lacking in authority and they take my fairly lax classroom rules and discipline as an invitation to start pushing back on me about what's acceptable. It seems to consistently happen at about the same time in the semester every time too --- which is when this place does student evaluations (sooo bizarrely early!) and that is just extra sucky for me.
I know what has happened in previous semesters that is bad (here is me trying desperately to learn and improve from this whole getting non-renewed thing): I get frustrated, I stew and obsess over these disrepectful behaviors and replay them endlessly in my head at home, and then I get touchy and prickly and pushback or lash out in the classroom --- sometimes as part of stopping the offenders, sometimes at other people --- and then the terrified students get even more terrified as my more snarky or abrupt side comes out.
Ok, hmm, so how do I replace this cycle with something better and nip it in the bud? I've got my mantras and I'll write me even more mantras ---- I wrote a post for you about my plan to use mantras, right? ---- anyway, I'm going to do my student conferences with the freshman comp class and try to get them to talk as much as possible and seem very very unintimidating (I hate days of small talk while trapped in my office! Aaaaaaaaah!) and maybe even tell some of my quietest froshcomp students that I would love for them to speak up in class more.
My developmental class I'm not going to do conferences with yet because they are really surprisingly into me and the class (but I have shared a lot more of my movie/free time/life preferences) ---- with the exception of the two guys who showed up totally high that one day (and these are the two who were repeating everything I said in a mocking "quit hitting yourself" tone of voice at the end of class --- these two inspired this post). Totally High Guys --- I think I'm going to send an email to Coach. I may even kick them out of the class, but that's always hard when people are looking to skate right along the edge of what is acceptable and not get caught. I kinda need to have a script or mantra for that kind of situation and whatever I prepare doesn't ever fit the actual situation as it arises. I'm definitely one of those people who comes up with the "perfect" (pedagogically speaking) retort two days later after stewing about it, and who comes up with the Worst.Possible.Response.Ever (in terms of being really harsh, funny, and often obscene) as something completely unthought that just pops right out of my mouth unexpectedly. Sigh.
The other class ---uhhhh, the other class. It seems to be going so well, compared to froshcomp. We have had several really really good discussion class sessions where a fairly large chunk of the class just ran away with the show and I wrote stuff on the board ---- and there are still a few very quiet people who don't really participate, but I think even most of them spoke up once or twice. But we just did peer reviews and I had a student who was doing this weird thing being simultaneously really flattering and saying zie really really wanted an A on this paper and kept asking what grade I would give this paper at this time ---- um, no. No. That is not appropriate behavior to even ask or demand a grade once, and you did it for like ten minutes. Now if I had said, stop it, this isn't professional behavior, or does that tactic work on any of your other teachers? I might have cut this off, but --- see above about trying to throttle any responses that seem too intimidating or might scare away students. Which means that, since I don't have a supportive and pedagogically-appropriate mantra lined up for this unforseen situation, and since my knee jerk response in my head was Really?!? Quit it. Grow up., I was kinda left doing this glassy-eyed head nod and "ok, but... ok, but..." inarticulate thing.
Sigh. This is tough. I need a drink. And maybe to punch someone.