Smiles and Cries

Before I started teaching I told people that the classroom environment is like a battleground for psychological warfare. Whether it's something as simple as the old "Don't smile until Christmas" rule or more complex decisions about what you tell your students about your age, marital status, background, etc. every interaction is basically a struggle for a control for the minds in your classroom.

It always kind of reminded me of this dialogue from Training Day where the trainee, Ethan Hawke, is talking about how to survive as a narcotics officer in L.A.

Jake Hoyt: You know, I already figured [the streets] out.
Alonzo Harris: Really?
Roger: You already figured the streets out.
Jake Hoyt: It's all about smiles and cries.
Alonzo Harris: Put the drink down, man, the motherfuckers out of his mind.
Roger: Hold on, Alonzo, hold on. Smiles and cries, smiles and cries, I hear ya.
Jake Hoyt: Yeah. You gotta control your smiles and cries, because that's all you have and nobody can take that away from you.

Now obviously our vocations are a bit different, but the idea of putting up an emotional wall feels similar. All day I've got kids talking about they hate me, they hate my class, my breath stinks and on and on. And I've got to not only block out what I hear from them, but also block what I let out. I can't let them see me with my guard down or that their words get to me.

The battle to control how you're perceived is one and the same as the battle over control of the classroom. Right now, quite simply I am losing that battle. I'm a nice guy. Which, as my mentor so bluntly put it, means the kids see me as a chump, a loser. Now I need to prove that I'm not just a nice guy, that I'm the one in control of the classroom and I need to prove it quick.


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