The Behaviour Files: Being a Male Role Model and other Labels
Posted on November 23, 2013
This is the fourth in a series I’m calling The Behaviour Files, in which I explore ideas, strategies, and experiences educating students identified with behaviour exceptionalities.
When I was in elementary school, there was a big, physically imposing male teacher. Let’s call him Mr. D. He had a loud, deep voice which reverberated through the corridors of a school like a huge didgeridoo. It was generally understood that, if you misbehaved or got into trouble, you would be sent to Mr. D to get reamed. It was the school version of ‘wait ‘till your father comes home’. You could hear Mr. D a few times a day from any part of the building. We may as well have been living in a region of the world where earthquakes and aftershocks are frequent. You just got used to it.
Actually, I never got used to it. As a relatively compliant student, I was always embittered by the existence of Mr. D and his screaming. I not only found it completely unnecessary, but was also terrified of the prospect of standing in front and below him, as the storm which emanated from his mouth engulfed me. To this day, I wonder about how and why Mr. D became who he was. I also wonder (although this never occurred to me at the time) why his colleagues would send us to him, creating a real life bad-cop-boogie-man in the school. Talk about passing the buck. I remember taking mental notes about him: “That is not a man you want to become.”
As you may know if you’ve been following my blog as of late, I’ve become preoccupied with the who, what, where, why, and hows of students that are identified formally or informally with behaviour problems in school. It’s a very unfashionable topic in education, I’ve realized. It’s been a while since I was involved in pedagogical praxis where I’ve felt this… solitary. For the past few years, I’ve been so active and connected to educators around other innovative pedagogies, that it is both uncomfortable and, strangely, refreshing to learn in this way. But that’s for another blogpost.
Being a male teacher with this professional interest automatically means you become The Male Role Model for a few reasons. Firstly, you are often one of only a few males in a predominantly female staff. Second, the students that present themselves with anti-social behaviours are almost immutably boys. Finally, these boys, from my own anecdotal experience, are very frequently missing strong, male figures in their lives who they can take implicit or explicit instruction from. It can often be frustrating to be labelled in any way shape or form, whether it’s because of genetics, skills, or simply an interest you have, and even if the label is ‘positive’. For the most part, however, I’m OK with people looking at me this way. I’m by no means a perfect man (whatever that means), but it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that the life experiences I’ve had and knowledge I’ve attained living on this earth as both a boy and man don’t equip me with lessons to pass on to my younger counterparts.
The thing I fear though is the idea that I’ll become a quieter, less loud version of Mr. D. I want to demonstrate leadership to my colleagues who teach these students of ours that are arguably in most need of assistance, but I know I need to be careful not to be the ‘go to’. I’m already the ‘tech guy’, which means, as my friend Oren Grebler used to say, makes you both the hero and villain. Can I avoid becoming the ‘behaviour guy’? We’ll see.