23 September 2008

Teacher as Dictator

Yesterday there was an announcement made about class elections, and how all homeroom teachers needed to hold them for president and vice president by today.

I am embracing fascism in my classroom this year. Democracy of any sort is not for children in middle school. Ironically, when I was in graduate school, we had to talk about classroom management in small groups and come up with a plan. I think in the mid-90s we were still calling it by its proper name, “discipline.” My group decided that we would make a class constitution. With the students. By the students. For the students.

We must have been high off the fumes that were swirling about from the construction on the new library wing. We were obviously all pre-service teachers, because if we’d had even a modicum of experience, we would have known that dictatorship is the only option.

Thus, I chose the President and Vice President myself. These elections always devolve into popularity contests and finish with some kid crying in the hall because he somehow figured out that he only got one vote, his own. Then I feel helpless and end up with snot on my shirt. And the last kid who deserved the spot gets it and proceeds to make demands of me, such as deciding that I should supply them with cookies twice a week.

I chose a boy as President who is mostly well behaved, does all his classwork and homework, and is always quick to help out when needed. I would have selected a girl, but the most qualified one is not well-behaved enough. But I did make her the Vice-President, told her that I thought she had a lot of potential, which is true. She lost both of her parents in a short span of time, but is super-bright and seems to be in a loving home. I already saw a difference in her conduct; hopefully it’s not temporary.

My decision also came from my frustration with the way things are done in my school- lots of good ideas, executed in half-assed fashion because someone wants it done right away, instead of done right. I have no issue with the idea of class presidents, but I was aggravated at the way it was announced with the expectation that it would be done pronto. So the administration is tacitly supporting a fascist dictator, me. I just can’t get my subjects to stop talking long enough to know that they are under my thumb.


Tracey said...

I totally agree...we have "good ideas, executed in half-assed fashion" too! I hear you!

loonyhiker said...

I was a dictator in my classroom and it worked well for 28 years. I told my students I was the Queen and rules would be followed. This wasn't a democracy and there would be no voting for anything unless I allowed it. I also rewarded my subjects for good behavior and good work so all was well. I rarely had behavior problems so my system worked for me.

ms-teacher said...

Found you via the Carnival. Great post and I agree 100%.

Sam said...

I believe loonyhiker when she says that dictatorship worked for her in her attempt to control and manipulate her students. I also agree with historians who say that Hitler's dictatorship worked for him in controlling and manipulating the German population. There was hardly any internal resistance in Nazi Germany. Is unwitting obedience to arbitrary authority really the values we want to instill in our youth?