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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"You're Doin' Too Much"

"You're doin' too much." Has become the Catchphrase of the Year in our school.  Typically this is delivered with an eye roll and hand wave.  It is said whenever a student gets caught doing something wrong such as being tardy to class, talking when the teacher is trying to deliver a lesson, being up and around the classroom when they should be at their desk, or on their device texting or listening to music.

Most often it is said when a teacher or administrator is assigning consequences for misbehavior, such as in this bit of recent dialogue:

"MK, this is the 3rd time you have been talking to A when I told you to stop. I warned you that if you did it again, I would move you to another desk.  You have 15 seconds to move to this desk." (I point to a desk up front.)

" Mr. Green, you doin' too much."

"Doesn't matter, you have 10 seconds to get up and go. Or it's a detention."

"I'm not the only one talking. You doin' too much."

Of course, what the student is saying is something like. 'I don't think you're being fair.' (We never are.) 'I think I should be an exception.' (They all are.) 'I don't think we should have rules.' (They are all beyond this.)

Of course, this is the world of the teenager where any older person is boring and stupid, and any authority figure is singling them out for special punishment.  Added to this is the fact that for many of our students, encounters with authority figures like police, judges, and administrators are frequently unpleasant, even threatening.  A friend of mine pointed out to me that our kids often do not feel that we are on their side. We are merely enforces of the system that keeps them in their place.

I continually explain to them that I am not their enemy. That what I wish for them is success in life.  That from the viewpoint of those in the outside world, the one they will be joining very soon, we teachers and administrators, rather than "do too much" are not "doing enough" to prepare them for that larger world. 

Most of the time they do get it. Those who don't face very bleak futures.

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