Saturday, September 14, 2013

THAT student

The first week is complete. We've met all the shiny new faces. Most students are ready to learn, understand how to behave appropriately and will make this year another great opportunity to grow for everyone around them.

But we all know who THAT student is. The one who hasn't been quiet yet. Who has many silly questions. Who is trying his or her best to distract everyone within arm's length.

A long time ago a wise parent shared something with me that changed my perspective. It was a great compliment. Her very quiet child came home from his first day of 5th grade and shared with her his surprise that I had been fair, quiet, and kind with THAT student that year. It was remarkable because a natural teaching reaction is to "Show them who is in control" early, to avoid undesirable behavior later.

The truth is.. I don't believe I am .. " In Control" of their learning. THEY ARE. As much as I would like to believe all learning begins and ends with me as a fountain of information, the truth is, all learning takes place if everyone feels safe enough to take risks and interact with each other. And the quiet kids are watching you like hawks to find out your tone with anyone who tries to cross any lines. In their minds.. speaking is such a risk they would never ever risk reprimand or ridicule. 

Making the "testing" students feel respected takes a huge responsibility off of the hard work they are doing to make themselves noticed. I will notice them, and pay attention to them, without the elaborate show. It balances out in my room pretty quickly, the quieter ones become louder and the louder ones become quieter until there is a nice hum of learning.

It takes some work to establish a classroom climate. It is all about teacher reactions and tone setting in the first few weeks. I don't want it to be a battleground for a control, but a common ground for learning. Invariably I learn  just as much as they do throughout the year.

So if you are a teacher, especially a new one, and you find yourself in battle, try to remember you are all really on the same side. Some students cry out for attention because they legitimately need you. I know in middle school it doesn't present that way. But trust me, a smile and a bit of encouragement goes so much further than a glare and a threat.

Just a thought as we all take a breath after our week's worth of challenges :)


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