There Can Only Be One Boss
Often, kids will say of a particular teacher, “That teacher is mean!” You might even overhear such a comment made about you. But before you blow your stack, consider what your kids might actually mean by calling you “mean.”
If you're constantly screaming at kids for petty reasons, barking at kids instead of conversing with them, crassly favoring certain students over others, or imposing onerous punishments for trifling infractions, then when your kids call you “mean,” they're indicating that you're genuinely unreasonable and unfair.
When disciplining your students, don't embrace elitism, a philosophy that presumes some people are inherently superior to other people, and therefore, the feelings of superior people are more important than the feelings of inferior people. Remember that all human beings — all kids — must be afforded as much dignity, equity, and compassion as humanly possible.
However, if you calmly warn students of impending punishments for disruptive behavior, carry through when your warnings are ignored, enforce your rules equitably for all students, and maintain a professional attitude of zero tolerance for unsafe and counter-productive behavior, then when your kids call you “mean” they're indicating, “We can't get away with any of the stuff we'd like to get away with.”
In other words, deep down your children understand that there can be only one boss in a classroom, and that's you. Kids need and want guidance (even if they never admit it) because they're learning everything, not just reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also interacting positively with diverse personalities; resolving conflicts; and grappling with ethical dilemmas. They need and want a firm hand to guide them safely through the frightening forest of childhood and adolescence.
Kids want a role model whom they can respect. Be the someone they're looking for. Be their instructional and behavioral leader. Be the boss — not because you're an egomaniac, but because you care deeply about your students' education.