Trustbuster #4 Archived Post 8.12.10

(Originally posted 8/12/10)

It has become a stock phrase in many American classrooms: “Do you want to end up flipping burgers for a living?!!” Used at just the right time, in the right place, with the right kids it seems very funny. It’s not. Ever.

Sarcasm is the tool of the weak folks. I can get away with saying this because, personally I am really good at sarcasm. I used it frequently, in my younger days, as a classroom management tool . It shuts kids up. It also gave me a way to be popular with kids who appreciated my witty ability to make other people look and feel like losers. Bottom line is….sarcasm produces shame.

That is why it works. I had to train myself to stop using it.Just because I think I am intelligent does NOT give me the right to make other people feel stupid.

Stopping sarcasm opened up many amazing doors for me with my students. Most importantly, I try to become a role model for other ways of handling frustration, communication problems, and basically BEING OUT OF CONTROL OF A SITUATION. You see, Sarcasm is a bright person’s way of taking control of a possible out-of-control situation. But that is another blog….

The reality of the Fast Food Future is that it isn’t the worst thing that can happen to folks. In many families, an adult working in fast food is what puts food on the table and health insurance within reach. Do we really have the right to insult that?

In some families, working in fast food is a far better alternative to what is presently going on….especially in this economy. Let’s face it: working in fast food is WORKING. It’s showing up every day, leaving smelling like French fries, putting up with uppity know-it-all fast food eaters, and getting a paycheck. There is nothing wrong with doing a day’s work. Anywhere.I know, I know….that isn’t what you mean when you say it. You want kids to realize their potential.

You want kids to aspire to wearing a necktie or a stethoscope or at the very least, not smelling like French fries at the end of a long day. But frankly, what you mean when you say it doesn’t really matter. It’s what THEY HEAR when we say it that matters.

What they hear is:

Teachers are smart and you kids are stupid. (and they all know that folks with the same degrees we have are making much more money somewhere else so they don’t quite buy that)

Teachers have the power to insult and students have to take it. (and they WILL find ways to get their power back, trust me on this….)

Teachers are completely disconnected from reality and shouldn’t be taken seriously. (ouch)

Sarcasm is allowed, accepted and encouraged when you are in charge or more educated. (and they will take advantage of that and spread their own sarcasm on the less fortunate whenever the opportunity arises.)

Teachers have a dim view of people who are lower-income and less-educated than they are. (and Teachers think that they have the right to be that way)

Now I know that many of us use those phrases with love and humor. We truly believe that the kids “get” what we mean and that they know that we aren’t putting anyone down. I’m going to challenge you on that. I think that they get the message loud and clear….no matter what kind of we put on it…and that it is the wrong message to be giving our kids.

We MAY think that fast food is a great place for teens but not a future to aspire to. There is nothing wrong with that. But using Fast Food Future sarcasm and insults to control classroom behavior or motivate our students will destroy any chance that we have to create strong relationships in our classrooms. We need to drop that line and find other ways to open doors for kids.

With love,

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