Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Look

A few years back, my ESL class, capped at 25 by the state (which funded it) went above the city limit of 34. The principal called me into his office and suggested an idea.

He had a special ed. teacher with a hole in her schedule. She could "team teach" with me (meaning I would continue to teach the class, and she would sit there, full of team spirit). Her AP was there, and said, "She speaks Chinese."

"I don't want someone who speaks Chinese," I answered. "I want someone who speaks English."

Naturally, they didn't understand that at all. At the time, I only had 17 books for 35 kids (a Tweed observer, seeing them share the books, commended me on the "cooperative learning" in my classroom). I said I'd agree if the principal would buy me a class set (and I got one too, in slightly less than two years, with the threat of a grievance).

Anyway, the teacher turned out to know both Chinese and English. She was very smart, and very helpful. She graded tests for me and found the stupid mistakes I'd made on the key before I handed the tests back to the kids. She (unlike the administrators) understood I wanted only English spoken in my classroom, and set a good example for the kids. Also, she didn't hesitate to call the parents of Chinese speakers for me.

But the thing that really amazed me about this young teacher with precious little experience was her approach to questionable behavior. If a kid did something unacceptable, she'd just stand up and look the kid in the eye. Invariably, the kid would sit down, shut up, or do precisely whatever it was her look telegraphed.

I'm a pretty good disciplinarian, but my methods are relatively complicated and time-consuming. She just had to give them the look and everything was fine. If I could package that look I'm pretty sure I could put most ed. schools out of business.

Do you know anyone who has the look? What's the secret?

Inquiring minds want to know.
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