My name is Paul and I am a recovering confrontationist. I recently had an education day in which the theme of the day was around confrontation. Type confrontation into Google and you get somewhere around 47 million references. Yes that’s right 47 million. That is a whole lot of pages about confrontation and here I am adding another one. Now I have blogged before about my need to be right and how a long time ago I would beat down anyone else who disagreed with my accepted position on life. I think I have arrived at a more reasoned approach these days. https://kiwipaulspoetry.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/the-bully-within/
Don’t get me wrong, I still have passion for causes and there are some areas in life that will gain a response that is persistent, prolonged and passionate however as I get older perhaps I am wiser. I most often choose my battles and when I don’t I reflect as to why not. Novopay is one battle that I choose to fight, it is personal and political. There is a classic imbalance of power involved that needs a response. Unfortunately in my experience most of the responses that get attention are based on embarrassment or fear or are monetarily driven.
Fear is both a motivator and a barrier to change but I have written enough about fear.https://kiwipaulspoetry.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/the-f-word-violence-and-control/ The thing is that at some stage one has to take a position, Aesop is attributed to having said that “He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own”. In the end it is about principles and what is it that is an absolute in our life. I used to have many absolutes but the last four years have seen many of these things go out of my window, sometimes for good reasons. In my teaching practice one of the principles that I have constantly challenged is around respect.
It seems very rare to find students that have even a modicum of respect for teachers. Behaviour ranging from constant talking, doodling, listening to music through to outright refusals to work, walking out of classrooms, swearing and cursing at teachers and offers to rearrange my teeth, glasses, state of consciousness (Would you like me to knock you out Sir ) as a response to a request for asking a student to take his earphones out through to a full blown alpha male display that any Silver backed Gorilla would have been proud of because they were asked to return to class. Now these behaviours range from quiet passive aggressive resistance to full blown screaming and shouting. Often that which gets to shouting does so because of escalation. It is a direct challenge when someone whom you have a care of responsibility for directly challenges requests, ignores your requests and just walks out of your classroom, not behaviour that is particular to a particular school but can be found nationwide on any given day.
How to respond to these challenges is the key. For me as a beginning teacher survival is the key word in this. So far this year it has been not that flash. For a variety of reasons I am that guy. The easy mark, point of difference. I have had to resift in my mind why I do what I do. So for me I am making different choices and I acknowledge they are different. Whilst I want life for my students to get better and I see that heir behavior is atrocious often in the end I am swimming against the tide so I need to find away through the flood tide of negative, nonsensical, non engaged behavior.
I still have my standards the things I stand for and absolutes in my life but I need to find away of dealing with these that allow me to remain as a Teacher which is what I want to be. To recognize my part in conflict and that which is helpful and that which just escalates behavior and to remember that I am the adult. Above all else to save my confrontations for things that matter, it is not always about winning…. but about living to fight another day. Paul