Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Honey, Please Put Your Phone Away

A young teacher I mentored for a short while landed in another school. She's kind of important to me, as I first found her utterly unable to control her classes, gave her some very specific advice, and watched her follow it precisely and instantly. It's not often I get to give someone a concept, watch it put into action quickly and decisively, and see it work well immediately. In fact, this young teacher got so good at it, she got nicknames like "The Nazi." Not ideal, I'll grant you, but she did get her classes under control.

However, the whole nazi thing did not particularly suit her. Actually, I think she may have overdone some of my advice. That particular image does not much appeal to me either.

In her new school, she's been successful with an approach I would never consider. She uses terms of endearment. "Sweetheart, please take your hat off." "Honey, I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop throwing cheeseburgers at people." And so on. Kids tell her, "No one's ever called me honey before." That's kind of sad. But true, apparently.

I've seen other women do this. I'm fairly certain if I were to do it I'd end up in whatever they use for a rubber room these days. One day, a girl who reminded me an awful lot of my teenage daughter asked me a question, and I replied, "No, sweetie, it isn't," or something to that effect, exactly what I'd have said to my daughter. And as the words exited my mouth I was thinking, "That's it. I'm going to the rubber room or something."

Fortunately for me, the girl took it exactly as I meant it, and we had no problem whatsoever. But men just can't talk like that. Not to girls, not to boys, not to anyone in the school building. Particularly egregious would be addressing administrators like that, I suppose, but on the other hand I can't recall a time I've been tempted to do so.

Yet I have seen this work for other women, including one of my very favorite colleagues. Sexist is what it is, perhaps. Or maybe men can't achieve the right tone. Or maybe we're too backward and primitive to carry off any real feeling. Then again, we could always blame Mayor Bloomberg and be done with it.
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