August 17, 2013
Scribble down the first ten words that come to mind. Pick three of them. There’s your post title. Now write!
I absolutely love my students. They are full of wonder and color. They wonder about the things that adults seem to have stopped wondering about. “Miss, do you ever wonder what would happen if you shaved off your eyebrows?” “I wonder why we can’t chew gum at school anymore :-(” “Ms. K, I wonder if I could touch the ceiling if you let me stand on David’s shoulders.” and my personal favorite, “Miss, I wonder if Ricky can keep on his mask all day.” These are all statements that students have said to me these past four weeks. You know, important wonderments. As for color, when they enter my classroom, alive with chatter, the dull-gray of my life washes off and the multitude of colors that are my students, washes over me like a baptism.
I am now coming off of my fourth week teaching adolescent 8th graders. And just so you don’t think I’ve been hugging a rainbow, let’s get one other thing straight, some of my students can be a nuisance. They keep lobbing grenades at my self-esteem, as I firmly plant my feet on the ground and refuse to become a casualty. I have no doubt that war has been declared and I am a foot soldier, battling from the trenches.
Teaching 12 and 13 year-olds can be a battle. They see the student/teacher relationship as adversarial whereas, I see it as symbiotic. But, I am woefully outnumbered. So, for the past four weeks I have been on the defensive, one lone sniper picking off the troops one by one. They may have the numbers, but in all of their teenage hubris, they forgot to notice that this old broad has the wisdom.
I am sorry dear Readers, if I offended anyone with my “We are at War” analogy. Certainly my students and I are not violent towards each other. But we do have very powerful weapons at our disposal. I’ve seen their arsenal: ignoring me, rolling their eyes, talking when they should be listening, whining, chewing gum, ignoring me (did I say that one already?) and any other flagrant disregard for the rules of my classroom. The students however, will never see me coming, haven’t seen me coming, in fact. As of this, the fourth week in school, most of my charges have succumbed to my charms, without even knowing it. I give it another week and both the teacher and the students will be living up to their potential both behaviorally and academically.
And here’s how I did it:
This is not a parlor trick, nor am I some kind of mind-reader. What I am is an observer. I can still remember what it feels like to be a 13 year old girl. I can tell which girl is self-conscious about her hair, which girl likes to be the boss, which girl is proud of her smarts, which girl thinks she has none, and so on, and so on, and so on. It is within these wants and needs, these likes and dislikes that I connect with each of my young ladies. I am not ingratiating, just honest and sincere. I can tell who needs an encouraging word, who needs a stern look, who needs pats on the back, and so on, and so on, and so on.
As for the young men, this is a bit trickier. The interesting thing about 8th grade boys is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Some boys develop rather quickly by age 13, others won’t hit their growth spurt until at least high school. I can tell who needs to be the leader, who needs to have a friend with muscles, who needs lots of encouragement and praise, who needs to be my helper, and which one can never lose face, and so on, and so on, and so on.
That is all of my War Plan that I am willing to divulge, you never know who will get wind of my correspondence and turn traitor! But seriously dear Readers, I will say it again, “I love my students.” By the way, here is a picture of Ricky and his mask, you know, the kid from the beginning of the blog that we wondered whether or not he could keep his mask on all day.
I was annoyed at first, but I didn’t make him take it off. Surprisingly, it was the one day this week that I didn’t have to reprimand one of my classes. I guess monster masks are soothing in the classroom.
My students are full of wonder and color and they are all a nuisance at one time or another. I hope they stay that way forever. Peace, ~v.