Sunday, October 28, 2012

The best time of the year to be the meanest primary teacher ever

Surliest primary teacher in the West. Err... we don't live in the West anymore. Nevermind...

So, Bryan and I are primary teachers at church and, by the way, we love it. The kids are great, the new activities every few minutes are great, watching our friend have her own singing time showcase every week is great, and, ya know, the snacks every once in a while certainly don't hurt either. We've been primary teachers for over a year now and it's always fun, but perhaps the very best time to be a primary teacher is during the month of October. Why, you ask? Because October is the month of the Primary Program.

Yes, the kids are adorable and their talks are sweet, but what the primary program means for primary teachers is this: no teaching lessons for an entire month! That's right, for the entire month of October they take what was already a fun and easy calling and make it even easier... and more fun.

Our primary program was today and, at least from where I was sitting, it was a roaring success. The kids were super adorable and sweet, the singing was great, and even little Olivia got to get up and sing "The Wise Man and the Foolish Man" for part of it. Cute cute cute.

And I don't know if this is church policy or just tradition, but once the program is over, the entire primary skips class and just parties for the next two hours of church. Didn't I tell you this was the best time of the year to be a primary teacher? It is.

For our post-program party today we were all treated to watching a "movie" (okay, so it was actually just a bunch of Mormon Messages, but they are great!) and eating popcorn and fruit snacks. The kids even did a phenomenal job of cleaning up every tiny bit of popcorn that fell on the floor. Are they great kids, or what?

During the last hour the primary presidency made some attempt at including a lesson in our party and, for part of it, the kids were split up into groups and were supposed to color pictures of various church-related things. The group we were in charge of was doing a fine job, but you can really only keep 10 and 11-year old boys occupied coloring for so long. After a little while, these older boys started getting restless. I went over to gently remind them that we were in church and they still needed to be reverent and respectful... and that's when it went downhill. Most of the boys were fairly chill and polite about the whole thing. One of them (and I honestly don't even know his name) unfortunately decided to be fairly openly rude to me.

Now, I'll pause here and say that I don't think I'm all that bad, but I'm pretty sure I'm the meanest teacher in our entire primary. And I'm not kidding. It's not that I'm especially mean, it's just that all of the other teachers (Bryan included) are especially nice. So, ya know, in comparison...  Anyway, I'm kind of a stickler about calling kids out on stuff they know they shouldn't be doing. Especially when it's stuff I don't even let my 3 year-old get away with.

So here I am with this boy who was being pretty rude. Any other teacher in primary would have smiled at him sweetly and said something really nice. Because, ya know, they're nice. But apparently I'm not because I called this kid on his behavior. He gave me that "you're the meanest teacher in primary" glare, but apologized. But then as I was getting up to leave them to finish cleaning, he went back to doing exactly what I had just asked him not to do. So not cool. I confronted him about it again and I think he finally got that I was not one of those nice teachers. He sulked off, but stopped being rude and misbehaving.

I've been thinking a lot about this since it happened this morning at church. On the one hand, I feel like I did the right thing. The kid was definitely old enough to know better (and I'm sure he did know better), it was entirely inappropriate for him to be rude to his teachers (especially women, just my own opinion), and it was right for me to require respect and have him apologize and stop acting that way.

On the other hand, I feel pretty bad about about being the meanest primary teacher there ever was. I keep thinking about next Sunday when this kid's mom is trying to get him ready for church and he won't want to go and she'll never know why and eventually he'll quit going to church all together and all because some mean old primary teacher made him feel bad and he sulked through the rest of primary hating the world.

Sigh. Hopefully, like most 10 and 11 year-old boys, he's already been distracted by a delicious Sunday dinner and he's forgotten about the whole thing and I'm the only one still sulking about it. It's just that I really do feel bad. Well, and that I also really do feel like I did the right thing. Hmm. It's tricky business, trying to do the right thing and always be nice at the same time. I don't know how the other primary teachers do it.


Polly @ Pieces by Polly said...

Ha! Our primary program was today and our teachers didn't get any time off during practice. They still had lessons. I think we can thank the overlapping of the wards for that because we couldn't stay in the chapel the whole time. We also had primary as usual after the program, so after leading music for the primary program I also had to get up and do to singing times (junior and senior). Fortunately my totally last minute singing time activity went better than I expected. (Give Jack the pumpkin a face.)

I'm sure you were doing the kid a favor. They know when they're out of line and this is how they eventually, miraculously turn from immature twerps at 11 into young men mature enough to serve a mission at

Kristina said...

Katie! It's been a long time, but I still follow your blog! :)

Anyway, I'm in primary too - and I have a class full of rowdy boys. I'm the only teacher for my class, and after a few weeks, I realized that they need someone to expect them to behave appropriately. It holds them accountable. Of course, we should always recognize the positive things they do, but church is a place of order and learning - and we help them to contribute to that by teaching them to be respectful, reverent, and choose the right. Looking back on my experiences in primary, I appreciate the "mean" teachers just as much as the super nice ones. I knew both types loved me, but I noticed that I rose to the expectations of the "mean" ones who were trying to help me grow as an individual. That's what we do in primary - we love and teach.

Holly Mayer said...

I teach the 14-15 year olds and I wish wish they had has primary teachers that required respect. For the most part they are okay, but a few weeks ago they were so bad I waked out in the class.
You know what the next week they were angels. They apologize and we had a very nice lesson. Kids want to know where the line is and if adults
Are wishy washy it is hard to know what is right

Kristie said...

Way to go! I think most kids want the structure, need to be told that behavior isn't cool, and need to know what is expected. And when they don't meet these expectations (and I am like you, they can't do things my own kids can't do) they need to be told. The kids who can take it with a grain of salt, own up to it, apologize and not do it again are the kids that will be stellar adults.
I think way too many kids get away with way too much. And I struggle trying to show my young kids (5,3,1) proper behavior when the older kids do so many things that are so inappropriate. But the big thing is, kids don't know any better unless you tell them. So by being the meanest teacher, you are really being the nicest teacher by teaching them the right ways to be.
Wish my kids were in your class!

Sunshine and Pink said...

I too am the meanest primary teacher. I have high expectations of my own children. Since I know that it can be done (I am in no way saying my children are perfect though) I also have high expectations for other people's children. I think that all too often in church there are so many super nice teachers that children learn that in primary they can just get away with their behavior, behavior that is probably not tolerated at home. My husband also has the same high expectations of behavior that I do. Together we teach the 7 year olds. When we first started teaching our class was fairly rowdy. It is a big class (15 children). The presidency was worried about the class and was wondering if they should split it. We said we would let them know. The first couple of months we had two boys in particular who were pretty rowdy, but over time they have mellowed out significantly. It has been so neat to watch. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but I know it's because they knew what kind of behavior we expected from the from the very first week and we have stuck to it. Just last week one of those boys even noticed the change in himself and was so proud of himself for being so reverent. I think that you did a great thing! I really believe that because you took the time to teach him he will benefit from that. Keep up the good work!

Tiffany said...

Kids respect teachers who discipline them. It's true. I can't stand disrespectfulness. (I just made up a word.) I almost turned off the movie today and invited some kids outside with me because of the way they were behaving, but I'm too new in the presidency...I didn't want to shock anyone... So...I guess someday I'll rival you for the meanest title. :) (And I hope that if I'd seen what you'd seen, I would've done something about it.) Primary rocks.

Kathy Haynie said...

I agree with your other comments. I also remember that we are taught to reprove with sharpness when it's necessary, and then to show forth an increase of love. Why not send the young man a note this week and compliment him on almost being old enough for the priesthood? Let him know how much you respect him, too. As a teacher, I often find that if I fake it, the kids live up to what I seem to think they are capable of. ALL kids (big & little) like to receive mail.

Marian-Lady Face said...

Yay!! That you expected and required that they respect you. My husband and I used to do the Faith in God activities in our old ward and respect had never been required of any of the kids was an exhausting calling because of that and after almost every one of our activities I would feel the same way you do. Knowing you're doing the right thing but feeling lousy because you had to call them out in the first place, and wondering if you've scarred them for life or hopefully helped them learn a valuable lesson. It's all so tricky. I think you did a great job. I'm glad you're in primary and aren't just a "nice" teacher! I think kids that age especially need that so Bravo!

Sew Much Ado said...

Oh Katie, this is great. Not the fact that you feel like you're mean, but because I can relate! In YW it was always hard to know when to be nice and when to lay down the lay :). Maybe you just saved that boy from a life of disobedience and getting kicked out of school, and one day getting in trouble with the law - much better way to look at it, hehe!

Sew Much Ado said...

And by "lay down the lay," I of course meant "lay down the law." :)

Callie said...

Personally, I love it when the rest of the Primary Presidency is out of town because then I can really "be mean" as you put it and demand reverence and respect. Don't need to beat around the bush about it either.