August 7, 2014
Here we go again. When we were growing up, my siblings and I used to say, “HWGA,” whenever our parents would argue with one another. We would roll our eyes at one another and simply mutter, “HWGA,” and we all knew what that meant, “Here we go again!” We would all scatter to various rooms in the house, or sneak outside so as to not have to listen and/or to give our parents their privacy. Don’t know if we ever told Mom and Dad what HWGA meant, or if they even knew we had a little code. Well, Mom knows now if she’s reading this (sorry MmR, GaZjr, AeZ, FaZ, MdZ, VlD and DrZ for giving away the secret).
Today’s post will be my last post for…well, I don’t know how long. I will leave this post, and the rest of my blog up for three days, and then I am sorry to say, I will be shutting it down. I am sure some of my dear Readers would like to know why. Here is the condensed version: a student. That’s all I will say on the matter. However, I will be back. I don’t know where or when, but I will be back.
I do this to protect not me, but my loved ones. It is my decision to write, so I am willing to suffer the repercussions. however, I do not wish to harm anyone with what I do and who I am. I know you dear Readers will understand.
Now, on to loose ends. In my last post, The Ones You Never Forget, I wrote about a former student (CM) that seemed to be troubled. I had several people tell me that they wouldn’t be surprised if I hear from the student again and that he would remember me. Well dear Readers, God does have a way of making believers out of us cynics. Yesterday, two days after my post, CM did indeed get in touch with me! He has since graduated from high school (no small feat) and is gainfully employed and looking forward to being a father and getting married (in that order). He said he sought counseling on and off through his high school years and although he is not quite over some trauma he suffered in his teen years, he is much better than when I saw him last.
Now this is why I teach, because of kids like CM. When I met him, he did not believe he had a chance at a life, he couldn’t see past his pain. I did not think he would ever remember that I taught him how to write a complete paragraph, nor did I think he would remember that I taught him how to write a proficient essay. What I was hoping for, however, was that he would remember the seed of hope I was so desperately trying to plant within him. He thanked me for always believing in him, for never giving up on him, and most importantly, never letting him give up on himself. Wow! You could have knocked me over with a feather Now that is why I teach.
Two other posts that I have to close out are Out of Focus and Out of Focus, Again. Although this school year has started off better than perhaps the past five or so years, I had one class that I was not really connecting to, yet. I thought I had solved the problem, but after a second lesson went flat, I decided I needed to try a new tactic. I thought, I prayed, I meditated, I slept, I asked fellow teachers, I thought I had tried everything. Then, God sent me an angel in the form of a Badass Teacher, DS.
DS wrote to me and suggested that I try a team building exercise. Some may know it by a different name, but the premise is the same. When you are with a group, be it work, school or church, and you must function as a group, you must have trust and a sense of camaraderie. Without those two things, your group will not function properly.
“But, of course!” I thought when I read DS’s message. “I need to build a little trust and camaraderie among my students.” Not only does it help the students gel as a class and as small groups within the class, it is a diagnostic tool for me. Here is how my team building exercise went:
I had my students do an exercise called “The Human Knot,” (again, some may know it by a different name). Eight students stand in a circle, for my classes it worked out well, since my classes are in groups of four. The eight students put their right hands in the middle of the circle and grab the hand of someone within the circle that is not standing next to them. Next, they put their left hands in the middle of the circle and they grab the hand of someone else not standing next to them. In order for the exercise to work, each student must be holding hands with two different people, and they must not be holding hands with someone directly to their left, or directly to their right.
Next, the students must try and untangle themselves to form a circle without dropping each others’ hands. It can be done. It has been done. And in my classes, it was done.
At first, the students were reluctant to hold each others’ hands. Then, all it took was for one student to make a move, and they all dug in, teamwork at its finest. It worked beautifully. One group within each of the three classes that tried this, were able to form a circle. It was the neatest thing to watch. And that is all I did, watch. Here were the results:
Most of the students were able to successfully work together. However, there were a few that started out extremely annoyed with me for even suggesting this exercise, but they quickly joined in and tried to help. Even so, there were two or three who simply refused to help, they just stood there, not helping, but not hurting the team. The students thought it was fun, but didn’t really know what it could possible tell me.
I was able to see who the leaders and the reluctant leaders of the groups were, who the loyal followers were, who the reluctant followers were, and who took on the role of comic relief. After each class had finished the exercise, I gave each student my observation of how they functioned in a group. For the most part, the way students behave in team building exercises is the way they will behave when working in small groups. Both the students and I were surprised at the leadership qualities in some of their peers. However, I explained to them, now I know who has the leadership qualities, and I fully expect them to live up to their roles.
I tried this, and similar team building exercises with many of my classes over the years. And each student that has participated, has risen to the high expectations I have set for them…without exception. It was, and has been an exceptional diagnostic tool. Now that I can see the beginnings of my students strengths and weaknesses with a small group, I can begin to work with them to get their best efforts. By the end of the first quarter (around the end of August) I should see students working up to the high expectations I maintain for all of my students. Teaching…It’s a Beautiful Thing.
Well, dear Readers we have come to the end of very fine friendship, at least I think so. I will be back someday; someday soon, I hope. I will continue to write, because writing soothes my soul. As for publishing, well, I’m working on it. I thank each and everyone of you, dear Readers around the world. I have enjoyed every smile, every frown, every frustration, every thing that this blog has brought me. I leave you with the hope that you will all go out and change the world for the better, even just a little, I know I will.
Please always remember, and don’t ever forget…Peace, ~v.