This is what I wrote on the board the first day of school teaching music at one of the inner city schools I was posted at in the Surrey School Board. Yes there is a spelling mistake (no need to point it out I am already aware). In spite of that, I wanted to post this because to me it represents a huge journey from that moment until now.
When I first walked into the school system to teach, I really thought that kids had it bad because teachers were controlling and mean. To me, teachers lack of acceptance of them as people was one of the biggest problems in education and the reason why kids behaved badly (if they did) and that all they needed was love and acceptance and everything would be fine. Boy was I wrong! While I still agree with that statement as being an fundamental issue in education that I am passionate about working on and helping to transform, I have now learned that kids can be MAJOR assholes who take advantage of any inch they are given and if you do not learn how to manage your classroom effectively, you will hate your classroom community as the anarchy runs rampant. It is normal for kids to test boundaries and question authority! They will do that regardless of anything you do, however effective classroom management can help funnel this awesome creative energy into positive ways.
The balance of Classroom Management and Facilitation of Emotionally Safe spaces has been a MAJOR area of learning for me this past year in particular. I have learned first hand how hard it is to be a teacher, what a toxic climate many teachers work in with peers, and how difficult inner city schools in particular can be to work in given the effects of trauma on students, the lack of resources present to help the kids etc. This picture reminds me of the importance of helping to create these safe spaces for kids to be themselves AND that strict boundaries of how we behave together is entirely necessary in order to work together as a team throughout the year.
One of my biggest learnings in this area is that the strict boundaries and controlling suppressiveness I have witnessed, and continue to witness daily, can be two separate things. I.e. that strict boundaries can be created and upheld with love and compassion and WITHOUT the control and suppression that seems to be necessary to keep them in place. I had linked them together in my past in elementary school and almost threw the baby out with the bathwater. These boundaries and guidelines of how we behave together, especially with kids in school, are necessary to achieve the kind of caring community I want to build AND they can be created and maintained without judgement, suppression or abuse of power. In the past I thought that they were inextricable and avoided them at all costs.
I am incredibly thankful for this learning.