My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.

It’s All About the Connections ~ Part II

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We connect in ways we do not even understand.

We connect in ways we do not even understand.

November 24, 2013

Dear Readers,

The last time we were together, I’m pretty sure I rambled.  It feels so good to be writing again, that I may have tried to stuff too much stuff in my previous post (It’s All About the Connections ~ Part I).  However, I do know where I wanted to end up, and look, we’re here.

I have spent the past three weeks or so, trying to speed up the learning process in my students.  We have to keep to the calendar, more tests ahead.  I have been so preoccupied in trying to do something I detest, I almost forgot about the things I love.  Specifically, I love the connections I make with  my students.

Since the beginning of the school year, my second block class has been my largest, and most difficult of all my classes.  However, they have been the easiest for me to connect with.  It took my principal coming into this particular class to observe and help me quell the riots, for me to realize that 80 to 85% of all of the chatter stemmed from discussions on classwork.  I know, right?  Although to the untrained ear, mine in particular, my second block class sounds unruly and out of control, they are really just verbal learners.  I have discovered that most of the students in this class need to verbalize what they are learning in order for it to stick in their brain.  I’ve since revised my “No talking out of turn” rule; these students need to blurt out their understanding of a concept as soon as they internalize it.  This learning style certainly lends itself to a cacophony of adolescent voices.

Now don’t get me wrong, they are teenagers, so they do try and take advantage of what they see as a ‘free-for-all.’  I just have to make sure they stay on task.  They are more apt to stay on task dear Readers, if they know the goal they are working towards.  Also, they work much harder and much smarter if they have a connection to the teacher presenting the material; that’s me!  It has taken me since the start of school to create a seating chart for this class where each of the groups is working together, for the benefit of both the individual learner and the group.  And it is finally working to the students’ advantage.

Let me just step out of my post for a second and explain what a huge sacrifice I am making here.  I am, by nature, a very high-strung individual.  I experience anxiety when I am in a noisy environment, such as this class.  My heart rate jumps, I clench and unclench my teeth, and my brow breaks out into a sweat.  I have explained these symptoms and what they mean to my students.  The students in my other three classes, for the most part, are keenly aware when the noise is getting to be too much for me; not so, this class.  But, they are doing better, by far.  Knowing my perchance for hyperventilating, I still choose to allow my students to learn how they learn best:  noisily.  I allow this, even at the expense of my own mental health.  “Ahhh, suck it up!” I hear my alter ego exclaiming, and I do.

Having connecting so well with this particular class, I have hit a few snags.  My first concern is that my students begin to feel so comfortable with me, that they have begun speaking to me as if I were their friend!  Even in a parallel universe, this will never sit well with me.  Here’s an example:  It happened the day I walked around to each of the nine groups in my second hour class and tried to connect with each of my students.  There is a fine line between respect and disrespect, and one of my students was just about to cross it.

As I stood at the white board calling on students to read a portion of a text and answer a question, I heard the usual chatter.  Most were discussing whatever it was they were discussing when I had been a “guest” at their tables.  I had to reign them in only once or twice before I called on V. to begin reading.  V. was unresponsive the first time I called on her, so I called on her again.  Still, no response.  I tried one more time, this time in a very firm and authoritative voice.  With her back to me, she waved her hand at me and said, “Hold up!”  At which point the rest of the class began laughing.

“Oh, this will not do!” I exclaimed to myself.  Out loud, I said, “Oh no I will not hold up!  How dare you speak to me in that tone.  I’m not your friend.  I am not 13, I am a grown woman, older than most of your parents and I deserve to be spoken to with respect.  I’m not your friend, I’m not your buddy, I’m not your pal; I’m your teacher and I will thank you to remember that whenever you address me from here on out.”  I guess familiarity does breed contempt.

As I walked around my class that day, connecting with my students, I lost a precious block of “test prep” time.  As I stood at the front of the class that day, I could feel my heartbeat increasing whenever I had that thought of losing time.  Conversely, I could feel my heartbeat slow down to normal as I countered that thought with this thought, “Yeah, but it was so well worth the loss.”

It’s all about the connections dear Readers, it’s all about the connections.  Peace, ~v.

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