Crazy Teacher’s Guide to Helping Reluctant Writers

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In honor of summer vacation, Crazy Teacher, my alter ego, will be posting to this blog. Crazy’s advice for dealing with difficult people and situations is, “Show them that you are crazier than they are.”   Here is an excerpt from The Crazy Teacher’s Advice Book.

Question to Crazy Teacher

Johnny Smith, a student in my 10th Grade Global History Class, does no written work. Like many of my students Johnny is either a gang member or a wannabe gang member. He is failing the class because he hands in no work. I’ve tried to motivate him, but he just sits there when I give a writing assignment. What would Crazy Teacher do?

Crazy Teacher’s Answer

It’s time for the Crazy Teacher transformation. Blink your eyes three times and become Ms. Toady, the humble secretary. Say, “Mr. Smith, I know you are a busy man, but I would be happy to serve as your personal secretary today. Please allow me to record your thoughts for you.” Pull up a chair next to him, pull out your pad and pen, and wait.

“Huh?” Johnny will go into his this-lady-is-crazy face, but you will note how he bites his lower lip to keep from smiling.

Blink up at him rapidly and say, “All you need to do, sir, is to listen to the question and say what you are thinking. As your personal secretary, I will be happy to write down your ideas for you on my pad here.”

Johnny will smile out at his classmates, gauging their reaction.

Bend your head in a posture of great obeisance, occasionally looking up at him as you wait.  “Sir, you’re a busy man. Let me help you get these other tasks out of your way.” Lower your head and pretend not to see his sneering face and the little triumph dance he does in his seat by rocking his big shoulders back and forth, back and forth. “Now, sir, perhaps you might want to say something related to the essay question: How did the Black Death in the Middle Ages contribute to the decline of Feudalism?”

He mumbles something.

Bite your lip in concentration and write.  “OK let me repeat what you just said. Oh, my heavens!  Was that, ‘I own this bitch.’”

He will turn his hat around, recline in his seat, and make a gang hand signal over your stooped head as he thrusts his long legs out in front of him, and the class laughs.

“Sir, perhaps it might help if I started you off.” Say as you write,  “In the 1300’s the Black Death…. ,“ and then wait.

“…lead to the end of feudalism because lots of people died from the plague which was carried by rats.”

“And,” put your hand to your ear, and look up at him hopefully.

“…And there was a labor shortage because everybody was dying,”

“So?”

“…So, the feudal lords told the serfs they would give them freedom if they would do some work.”

“Thank you, Sir. It was a pleasure working for you. Have a great day!”

“You too, Miss.”

Disclaimer by Crazy Teacher Who Is Very Old

It’s all about image, and Johnny wants to maintain his as a tough guy. Often these wise guys are so insecure that they don’t want to look like they bend to anyone’s will, let alone a teacher, in a class, in front of peers.

As my alter ego, Crazy Teacher, I draw from 45 years of experience in elementary, middle and high schools, and I write about what I have lived. True, “being old” has its advantages. If you are a newbie teacher just starting out, you might want to reserve some of these strategies for those days in your career when you too will be wearing sturdy thick-soled shoes.  I believe, however, that humor and a bit of keep-‘em- off-balance if done with love and care actually does work. The kid in this tale became my best pal after this lesson because we ended our power struggle. He won and I won too!

2 thoughts on “Crazy Teacher’s Guide to Helping Reluctant Writers

  1. So much about teaching is knowing your audience. And yes, humor, especially self deprecating humor, is a huge weapon that many teachers fail to utilize. we have come to see kids as (choose any tha fit) clients, numbers, faces, obstacles. When we reintroduce the human element, when we find ways to get kids to see their own strengths and to trust us, we have succeeded. Thank you, Rose, for reminding us of the power of the human/humane/humorous touch!

    Like

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