Wednesday, October 1, 2008

testing, testing...

As a mother, I know quite well that children are obligated to test their parents. They need to find out what the rules are- not what you SAY the rules are- in order to know how to function in that environment.

In our classes, the students also do this. For the same reason- to know whether we really mean what we say.

We do.

It often comes as something of a surprise. You may have noticed that there are plenty of times and places when people do NOT mean what they say, or at the very least, give mixed messages.

This morning was the first of one of our current series' of classes where I was teaching alone, so it was the first time this group of students had the opportunity to test me, rather than the master.

They did. A couple of them decided they wanted to talk during class.

They will likely not do so again. :-)

It is almost inevitable that this happens in the classes where we teach together. The first time I'm there alone, they all think that somehow, I'm the "nice" one or something, and they can relax the rules. I'm not, and they can't. Maybe they make that assumption because I'm female. Maybe it's because I'm generally softer.

The thing is, I can't afford to be the "nice" one, and get any respect. Doesn't mean I have to be rude, or overpowering, or anything- but I inevitably have to assert my authority. The bad part of this is I'm a firefighter, not a cop. If I wanted to be a cop, I'd be one. I'm a relatively easygoing person almost all the time, and I dislike having to pull rank and be a hardass.

The good part is that I'm perfectly capable of doing so when circumstances require it.

We had a brief discussion of this after the class today, how it always happens the first time I'm there alone. If the master was there, it wouldn't happen, so he never sees it. They don't test him in the same way, or with the same regularity, and they don't test me if he's there. Why do they not? At least partly because he LOOKS scary, and has an aura of control and, well, masterliness. So they don't dare. He can be relaxed and verbally gentle, because his obvious strength is enough to keep them from daring to try anything. I, on the other hand, have to prove myself, to every class. Because I am naturally more soft and yielding, both physically and otherwise, I have to demonstrate my strength- or they can't see it.

It is somewhat interesting to observe the reactions to this situation that is not... quite... what they expect.

It's a little different with my regular students than it is with the new ones. The regular ones already know what is expected, and don't do so much testing. I can be much more relaxed with them, almost all of the time. An occasional reminder that we are not just hanging out is all that is necessary to keep the class focused. The main thing I have to watch out for in the regular classes is that no one ever has the opportunity to confuse "relaxedness" with "laxness." As long as everyone stays focused (myself included), it's not a problem.

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