Monday, November 30, 2009

the force behind you

A parent of a student I work with the most wrote to me recently, and commented that it seemed that my method of getting students to respect me and get work done and do what I ask can be most closely related to "talk softly but carry a big stick."

I stopped to pause on that, and my first reaction was really, "But I have no stick!"

I don't have anything that I can use to discipline the teenagers I work with, no major consequences for them to hold up behind me as I speak gently to them face to face. I also don't have some sort of quiet rage or passive aggressiveness that might guilt others or put fear into people so that they act.

So if that impression has been made, that my approach is to talk softly and carry a big stick, I must have some sort of proverbial stick. I don't like the forceful and potentially physical connotations of that, and I know the parent meant it in a positive way. So what is my stick, the force behind whatever authority and respect and productivity that comes from the students I work with?

It's something I've been thinking about. I think it has to do with confidence, instilled by my parents and the fact that they commanded respect and taught me that I deserve it. It has to do with conviction, my belief in what is right and what is necessary and what is true. It is not true to tell a student it is okay that they have not kept their word, to just sit by while they offer meaningless excuses. And it has to do with my pride, in both good ways and bad, in ways that I will keep thinking about.

I wonder if you feel like you have a "stick", and if it has any effects on others, either positive or negative, and what forces created the stick and keep it in line behind you, whether you speak loudly or softly...

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