A classroom of students is often like walking into a lions den. How you are treated depends solely on you and how you command the room. It’s not them, they’re students. They act as they always have and they always will. You determine the experience “” it can be wonderfully fulfilling or you can get your head swiped off and batted around as a play thing.
The first time I was in a position of authority, I was a parks and rec coordinator in charge of a group of teenaged playground leaders. I was extremely bad at it. I wanted to be their friend and not their boss. I wanted to pal. I wanted to be one of the gang. I wasn’t. I was their boss. I didn’t learn this lesson well “” a couple of years later I was the coordinator for a drama camp. Even in an environment where I was comfortable, I was bad at leadership. Still trying to be besties with my staff. I would not be surprised, at all, if any of the teens I was in charge of over those two stints regarded me as a completely useless tool of a boss. I had my head swiped off and batted around like a play thing, and it was totally my fault.
Now when I go into the den, er, classroom I know the situation and I’m very comfortable with it. It’s important to have a grasp of the relationship as it stands. When I go in to lead a workshop, that’s what I have to do. Lead. Be the boss. Don’t be a pal, a chum or a bestie. Don’t be one with the lions. Students can smell that coming a mile away. I have to know exactly what I’m looking for, convey exactly what I’m looking for, and encourage that outcome. And this doesn’t mean I have to be an ass about it. That doesn’t work either. Students respond even less to ass-hat behaviour than to bestie behaviour. I think workshops should be fun and there’s nothing I enjoy more than really getting into the exercises along with the students. But clarity is key. Specific instruction is key. Vacillating will just get you a quick trip to the lions.
I’m currently working with a class that perhaps isn’t as mature as it could be. As confident as it could be. As cohesive as it could be. But you know what? We’re doing fine. More than that, it’s fun! And their work is on par with many other classes I’ve been in. And that’s because the outcome is clear. The expectation is clear. And who I am to them is clear. The lions and I, we’re getting along just fine.