My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.

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There but for the Grace of God, Go I

December 24, 2016

Dear Readers,

The following has been reprinted with permission:

Attitude of Gratitude

by Sonny, 6th grade

“Even if I am only 12 years old, I know what it means to be grateful. I know that no matter how bad I have it, I can always be grateful for something. Here’s my story.

I lost my dad when I was about 3 years old. I guess I miss him,   I don’t really remember him. But I lost my mom last year to breast cancer, and I do remember her. I miss her so much, but not as much as I used to. I guess I’ve learned to be grateful.

When my mom died, I tried to be strong, but I couldn’t stop crying forever, it seemed. My mom died during the summer, so at least I didn’t have to go to school. It seemed that all I ever did was cry and feel sorry for myself. I lived with my nana and tata, my mom’s parents, so I knew I had people who loved me. But my mom and dad were both gone and all I could think about was, “Why me?” Then school started and I got even worse. I didn’t know that I was angry. I just knew that life was pretty unfair.

I was never really good at school. So, when I started getting ‘Ds’ and ‘Fs’, it didn’t bother me…much. To be honest, I hated my grades. But, I didn’t think I could do any better.   I was wrong.

I had a teacher last year that taught me about gratitude. I was sad I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet. My mom used to tell me that. I never understood what it meant.

One day at school I was crying because, well, life sucked for me! It had been less than a year since my mom died and Thanksgiving was coming up. All I heard at school that week was, “What are you thankful for?”

“Nothing! I’m thankful for nothing!” I yelled back at my teacher one day when I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I ran into the hall and waited for my teacher to run after me and tell me everything would be okay. I then would tell her how sad I am and she would say she was sorry and then I would tell her that life was unfair, and I would get to go to the bathroom and wash my face and I would be okay until the next time. At least that was how it had gone for the past four months. Not this time.

My teacher, I’ll call her Miss X, dismissed the class to reading and lunch and called me in from the hallway.

“Well,” I thought to myself, “if Miss X won’t feel sad for me, maybe Ms. J would.” Ms. J was our class aide and she was still in the classroom as me and Miss X sat down.

I don’t remember what I thought Miss X was going to say, but I know I wasn’t expecting what came next. Miss X let loose on me. Not in a yelling way, but in a disappointed way.

“Look, I can’t help you get over your sadness, Sonny. I’m not so good in that department. But, I can help you get over being selfish and ungrateful. Now, I’m real good in that department.”

I thought my face showed shocked and hurt, until Miss X smirked. Now, at the time I didn’t know the difference between the smirk and the smile. I saw a smile,. Smiles from adults when kids are sad and crying are a good thing, a warm thing. So, I relaxed and prepared to gets some hugs, maybe  a funsize bag of M&Ms that Miss X keeps in her desk drawer. But no, Miss X lets loose on me again! Only not in the disappointed way she started with, and not quite the yell, yet.

“Sonny, I am sorry that you’ve lost your mom.” Which, of course, I didn’t believe at first, because she was, well, not yelling, yelling. But, she was loud.

“And I’m sorry that life sucks for you right now.” This, this I believed because I pretended not to see that she was about to cry. Aaaand, she fooled me again., because, you see, those were not, sad tears. No, they were angry, frustrated tears; like she was hurt. But, I was listening.

“And I’m sorry that you found out at such a young age that life really, really sucks sometimes. But life can be really, really glorious, too. You don’t know this, yet, and you probably won’t believe me for a while, but yes, life has wonderful moments waiting for you. And even now you are missing them because you’re too wrapped up in poor me, poor Sonny.”

By this time, I figured she was on to something, so I just let her let loose on me. That, and I totally misread the smirk and the tears and I didn’t want to be surprised, again.

“What about poor Nana and Tata? Huh, what about them? I know they love you and would do anything for you, but have you ever stopped to think how hard this is on them? I mean, life must really suck for them right now! I mean, seriously. I know you think you are just so charming and fun to be around, but your nana and tata cannot exactly be thrilled to have a middle school kid running their lives.”

“That’s not fair! I don’t run their lives!” At least I didn’t think I did. Although, I was happy to hear that it was at least a possibility.

“Did I say you were ‘running their lives?’” Miss X said. “I thought I said ‘ruining their lives!’ Ha, ha, ha I’m kidding, of course Sonny.”

Yeah, she was kidding. She used her fake, ha-ha-ha laugh that she uses when she tells a ‘cor-ky’ joke, you know, a corny, dorky joke is a cor-ky…nevermind. I knew she was kidding.

“I know you don’t see it, Sonny, but you are so wrapped up in what you don’t have to be thankful for, that you can’t see the things you should be grateful for.”

And that’s when she said it, “I was sad I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

I really, really, really didn’t want to cry right then. I didn’t want Miss X to think I was feeling sorry for myself, because I wasn’t. It was just that when Miss X said the same thing my mom used to say to me and I didn’t know if I was happy because I finally understood what it meant, or I was sad because I couldn’t tell my mom I finally understood what it meant. So I cried.

Today, I am grateful for things I never thought I would be grateful for. Like, clean drinking water, because there are kids in our country who have only poisonous water coming out of their water faucets. And I’m grateful that I have a nana and a tata who love me and take care of me, because a kid from my old school just lost his mom, too and he had no other family to take care of him so he had to go into foster care. And I’m grateful for…well, you get the picture.

There’s always something to be grateful for. At least that’s what my mom, and now Miss X say. And I’m going to hang on to that. Seriously, if my mom could find something to be grateful for when she knew she was dying, and Miss X can find something to be grateful for even though she has to put up with middle school kids all day, then heck, I’m sure I can always find something to be grateful for. And guess what? The more aware I became, the more grateful I became. And, the more grateful I became, the less sucky life became.

It’s amazing what having an attitude of gratitude can do for a person. Take it easy. Until next time.”

Yeah, what he said. Peace, ~v.



Out of Focus, Again

August 2, 2014

Dear Readers,

Two days ago, I published the post Out of Focus, in which I described falling flat on my face during one particular lesson in writing.  I took my lunch hour to furiously write about my dilemma and meditate in hopes that either one (or both) could help me determine where it was that I went wrong in the execution of the lesson.  I was completely out of focus and I couldn’t be, as long as I had other classes to teach.  Long story short, I figured out what the problem was and I was able to fix it so that my afternoon classes would not have to suffer the same fate as my morning classes…or so I thought.

Although my afternoon classes did go much smoother after my adjustment, the real test would be the next day when I had to try to re-teach the lesson in which I received no student engagement whatsoever.

In my first class, the lesson went well.  One down, one to go.

I bombed, again.  I’m still trying to figure out what had happened.

I will lay out the groundwork.

I am teaching my students how to write to persuade.  Additionally, I am teaching them the six traits to writing a proficient essay.  Each of the next six weeks will be spent closely examining a different trait, last week was Ideas and Concepts.

The easiest way to get students to come up with good ideas is to have a class discussion, but they will only discuss that which is important to them.  I thought I had picked a good topic and discussion and I did pick a good topic, at least for three of my four classes.  A good topic is one that ultimately ends  with a collaborative class discussion, one in which students are throwing out their ideas and opinions and I am playing devil’s advocate.  And this did, in fact happen, in three of my four classes.  My second hour class just would not be moved.

There I was, trying again, to inspire, motivate, even cajole 29 12 and 13 year olds to voice their opinion.  Nothing.  Thus, I am left, once again dear Readers, to reflect on what it is that will move my students.  I think I may be on to something.  Of course, then again, I thought I had solved this little dilemma.

This may take some time, dear Readers.  I will have to sleep on this one as I am out of focus…again.  Peace, ~v.


Out of Focus

Out of focus

July 31, 2014

Dear Readers,

I am writing to you during my lunch hour at school. I am writing because I believe it will help me to focus for the remainder of my classes. Right now, I am so out of focus that it is interfering with my ability to teach.

I am one of the few teachers who will admit to loving lesson plans. I love the creative process that comes with lesson planning. I enjoy coming up with new and exciting ways to teach the same old concept. I may have to teach the same rules of grammar over and over and over again. But, you can bet that I have never taught it the same way any two years in a row. (I know a teacher who is still using the same lesson plans he created when he became a teacher…12 years ago. Seriously? Seriously!)

Today I thought I had a fairly decent lesson on writing a persuasive essay; it wasn’t my best, but it was far from my worst. I enjoy writing and I especially enjoy teaching writing. However, this morning, I fell flat. The students in my first hour class couldn’t concentrate as we had a fire drill right in the middle of class. Holding their focus after that commotion was not going to happen. Okay, I’ll get the next class.

I was even more out of focus for my next class. Have you ever been to a comedy show where no one laughs? The comedian is giving it all he’s got and all you hear is crickets? No one, not one audience member is giving up a laugh and it is painful to watch. And if it’s that painful to watch, imagine how excruciatingly painful it must be for the comedian. During my second hour class, I was the comedian; crickets.

So here I sit, dear Readers, writing during my lunch hour. I am reflecting on how I can improve my delivery for my two afternoon classes. Teachers do this. We reflect, we modify, we adjust. What works for one class may not work for the next. In addition to not wanting to be boring, I am constantly changing the way I deliver a lesson. Right now, I figured if I could purge this horrible, falling flat on my face feeling through my writing, I can re-focus.

I’m going to take twenty minutes and meditate before my next class, I’ll let you know how it goes. Peace, ~v.

Dear Readers,

I’m baaack! This afternoon went much better. It was the polar opposite of this morning. After my meditation and reflection, I decided to change the topic of the writing assignment and that seems to have done the trick. Not only did the students participate in the class discussion, when it was time for them to write in their journals, they didn’t want to stop. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

As the only adult in a roomful of 34 people, I have to take responsibility for the crash and burn. I first look at what it was about my delivery, my planning, my something that sent the lesson south. It is not always me, but even when it is not, it is always my responsibility.

I can admit that, yeah, most of the the time it is my delivery, my planning, or lack thereof that leads to my bombing a lesson. Today was no different, it was my fault. In fact, the only time that it has ever been more the students’ fault than mine was when I worked at a boy’s prison, and I defy any teacher to hold a lesson together while a student is calling you an effing ‘B’ and throwing a computer at your head. But that dear Readers, is a story for another day. Peace, ~v.

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It’s In the Cards

July 15, 2014

Dear Readers,

I recently wrote that I was celebrating my one year anniversary writing my blog, My [redacted] Journey.  Having reached that milestone, I envision taking my writing into a new direction.  What that entails exactly, I do not know.  I do know one thing, however.  I do know how to tackle my indecisiveness.

At the heart of the matter is my lack of clarity and guidance.  I am  not clear what I want to ‘do’ with my writing.  Therefore, I lack the proper guidance to get me there.  Usually, a major concern such as this,  puts me in an emotional state;  I feel anxious, I begin to obsess, I am easily irritated.  Not this time, I have a better handle on my life’s direction.

Next, I take a good look at why I am resistant to explore my options.  The reason I am holding back this time is because I have recently started a journey of self-discovery and it hasn’t always been pleasant.  In the back of my mind, I am afraid the only thing I will discover about my writing is that I shouldn’t be writing.

Then, I check my motives for wanting what I want, in this case, to pursue my writing.  I check myself for any ulterior motives, any hidden agenda.  In this case, I feel a twinge of guilt for wanting to do something other that teach.  I recognized my inner calling long ago, so to change it up, I must not be judgmental and learn to make the hard choices without the guilt.

Once I stop judging myself and what I desire, I see what was once important to me begin to slip away.  For example, in order to concentrate on my writing, there are certain qualities in which I have to let go.  If writing become my life’s focus, my nurturing, caring side would  become a former focus of mine instead of my primary focus.

So where do my attitudes and beliefs fit in?  What are my goals insofar as writing is concerned?  What is the alternative future for me as a writer and not me as a teacher?  The answer to these questions is for me to us my common sense.  If I take a realistic approach to my writing, an opening may appear that leads to my taking a chance with a future in writing.

It is only then that I begin to face unresolved issues about my personality that may make taking a different path, such as that of a writer, even more difficult.  Here is my breakdown:  I have to resources to teach, but not the knowledge to learn.  I have the capacity to lead, but am hesitant to do the following.  And I have the humility to give, yet the hubris to never receive.

Subsequently, I see myself as having suffered one too many losses to begin with something new and lose that, as well.  I have suffered great losses of things (and people) that I loved, and right now, I am feeling deprived of love in general.  I realize I have made wrong choices in my lie, I am apprehensive to make many more.

Here is where it is always best to see myself through the eyes of others.  Others perceive me as energetic, outgoing, cheerful, and self-assured.  Sometimes, those perceptions are only what I am projecting into the universe.  I have to stop all of the negativity making a loop through my brain.  I need to begin to see myself in a more positive light.

So then, what are my hopes and fears about my future writing endeavors?  I believe that writing is a gift I must use to feel fulfilled.  Writing, in conjunction with teaching, represents that which will help me become connected, engaged with what is around me.  I am in a position to realize my heart’s desire: to actively contribute to society and to be of service to others.

So, what do I see as the overall outcome with respect to my writing?  Well, I do not believe my writing has run its course; I still have so much I have to get out to the masses.  I see that it is time for me to take action.  I have thought about my writing and I have imagined me as a writer.  I even dream of being a writer.  Now is the time for me to act.  Soon the dust will settle and I will see how my plans have fared.  Meanwhile dear Readers, any suggestions?  Peace, ~v.

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Let Me Teach

View from my desk.

View from my desk.

January 13, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today I was interviewed by National Public Radio host, Michel Martin.  Ms. Martin is host of the show “Tell Me More”. The show, “Tell Me More” is alive and well in the digital age and has been “featured in live Twitter chats about education that brought together tens of thousands of participants across the country.”  Now that is the kind of program I can appreciate.  Read more about the show here.

As for my interview, Ms. Martin recently interviewed writer Amanda Machado regarding an article Ms. Machado wrote entitled “Why Teachers of Color Quit”.  Having read Machado’s article, I wrote a rebuttal, “Why Teachers of Color Don’t Quit”.  It only seemed to follow that Ms. Martin interview me as well, since I did have an opposing viewpoint.

The interview went well, I was able to speak my piece, and it will be broadcast nationally.  How cool is that?  Ok, back to serious writer.  The interview will air tomorrow.  Here is where you can listen on-line.

I will write more of a follow-up on tomorrow’s post, dear Readers.  For today, I had other thoughts.  I posted the following comment on a site that is dear to my heart but I’d like to share.

I have experienced discrimination on several levels: a woman, a Latina, a poor person. It sucked (sorry, but no other words say the same with the same vehemence).  However, it wasn’t until I taught overseas that I realized, in my case, that my American privilege far outweighed the prejudice I have suffered at home. I figured I had a choice, stay  overseas and enjoy privilege as both an American AND a teacher, or come home and face the inequity. Well, I’m home and I am having a difficult time grasping onto anything concrete to counter what is happening in education, today.

I have been fighting the good fight, tilting at windmills, if you will, most of my life. I am ready for things to change!   I don’t expect society to change anytime soon with regard to my gender or my race, but as an educator, I deserve respect! I am a professional. I guarantee that I and most educators know better than any rich businessman what is best for our students. And we are smart enough to realize what works in Tampa may not work in Tempe.

Let me teach!  Barring that, I’m afraid I am going to have to reassess how I can best serve my community. I want to teach!  Barring that, I am going to have to reassess how I can best get our message out to the masses.

In this day of educational uncertainty, I am willing to stand up and fight for what I value and believe in. I am proud of what we, collectively, are doing and I hope we can all continue evolving to meet the needs of ourselves, our students, and our communities.  Peace, ~v.


It’s What I Do, It’s Who I Am

This is what focus looks like.

This is what focus looks like.

December 12, 2013

Dear Readers,

I do some of my best teaching in some of the worst situations.  I work well with the hard to reach students, the discipline problems, and the troubled kids on meds.  I also work well with delinquents, gang-bangers, cutters, kids who are locked-up, and kids behind bars, adjudicated youth, aka prisoners, and so on.  These students all have something in common, they have not been very successful in school, so much so, that when I cross their paths, between 7th and 9th grade, they have a both a distaste for and a distrust of the public school system.

I cannot list for you the steps that I take to reach these particular students.  I also cannot point out to you the pedagogies, the methodologies and/or the strategies I use to help these students experience success in the classroom.  I can only tell you that it’s what I do, it’s who I am.

Each student is different, of course, and each student requires something different in my approach to them.  I am never quite sure what will work on any given student.  That is why most of my time is spent observing my non-traditional students, and trying to determine how each learns best.  Then, and only then, can I begin to see what modifications and accommodations will best suit the learner.

I’m not saying that I have always been successful.  Quite the contrary.  I lose more than I inspire.  But when I am successful in determining how best to serve the student, and the student is successful in learning how best to serve himself, it is a thing of beauty.  Although there is no typical way I engage my most difficult students, I can share with you an example of how I do what I do.

Ray, not his real name, is a new student in one of my more difficult classes.  Ray, a Special Ed. student, had been in another teacher’s class and had been doing well, academically, until recently.  During his most recent Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting, his former teacher, the Special Ed. teacher, and the vice-principal decided that it was in Ray’s best interest to switch over to my class.  Perhaps a change in scenery would help.  So far, it hasn’t, until today.

Ray was his typical, disruptive self during class this afternoon.  We were in the library today and Ray could not sit in his seat for more than three minutes, tops.  I had observed this behavior since his coming to my class.  The first minute he can almost sit still, by the second minute, he begins standing to “stretch my legs”, and by minute three, Ray is pacing with a purpose in the back of the room.  Ray’s m.o. is fine, as long as he stays away from the other students.  Ray cannot stay away from the other students.

I have observed that not only does Ray have a limited physical attention span, he also has a limited mental attention span, both of which cause him to have short-term memory loss.  Ray’s attention span is so limited that he will forget both my question and his answer in the time it takes for me to finish my question.  Ray’s hand will shoot in the air to answer my question, and I can see by the look on his face, that he does know the answer.  However, I can also see the look of confusion come across his face as the answer slips from his conscious memory.

I have observed that Ray is adept at knowing which student’s help he can enlist to double-team the teacher, me.  Ray needs a sidekick to divert attention to.  Ray can’t sit still, but he can sit quiet.  Ray, silently, provokes his sidekick into disrupting the class; attention diverted, Ray is free to “release” his pent-up energy with little chance that he will also be a target for the teacher’s admonishment.

Ray’s sleight of hand, if you will, works only as long as he is allowed into the general population.  When he is in time-out (I don’t really call it that, but that is what it is.), he has only his self-control to keep his energy from getting him in trouble.  Today, in the library, Ray let his energy get the better of him and he was sent to a table alone.

When it was time to do the group work, I formed a group with Ray, Ray’s earlier sidekick, and myself.  We sat as a group while the librarian read the class a story.  The story took approximately 8-9 minutes to read, and I was looking forward to, once again, observing and hopefully, determining how to best harness Ray’s energy.  Oddly enough, Ray figured out the solution himself, it just took me to point it out.

During the first minute or two of the story, Ray began using his pencil to shade a rectangle on his paper.  I noticed that he was deeply engrossed in his drawing.  He appeared to be concentrating so hard on his art.  However, he was the only one in the class listening, actually listening to the story.  Ray laughed, shook his head, smiled and nodded in all of the appropriate places in the story.  He was not only listening to the story, he was focused on the story, I had never seen this side of Ray.  Ray was learning.

Ray managed to focus his attention, control his energy, and open himself up to learning, for a full 9 minutes.  I was quite proud of him.  Ray, however, was not so much proud as he was surprised.  He was unaware what had kept his energy at bay and his focus on the story.  When I pointed to his drawing, Ray seemed genuinely surprised that he had been drawing a picture.  He was unsure of what had just happened.  At this point, I explained to him that I didn’t quite understand it myself, but drawing allows some people to calm their energy and focus on what is being taught.  I told Ray that he appeared to be one of those learners.

“I’m sorry, Miss, I was just drawing, I don’t know what I was doing.”

“Ray, it’s ok.  How long have you been drawing to control your energy and focus on learning?”

“Huh?” was Ray’s response.

I explained to Ray that while he was drawing, he was able to learn.  I didn’t know why it worked, I just knew that it worked.  I hadn’t realized that Ray was unaware of his learning process, or what was the best way for him to learn.  He was discovering something about himself and the smile on his face told me that he thought it was pretty cool.

Ray had one of those A-ha! moments we often hear about.  I’m hoping that it was a significant enough moment to encourage Ray, the student, to want to keep learning.  I know it was a significant enough moment for me, the educator, to want to keep teaching.  Sometimes, a significant moment is all I get, dear Readers.  And most days, dear Readers, a significant moment is all I need.  Peace, ~v.


“And the Winner is…”

I am "Smarter Than a Fifth Grader"

I am “Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”

August 27, 2013

Dear Readers,

Here is today’s Daily Prompt:  You are receiving an award –- either one that already exists, or a new one created just for you. What would the award be, why are you being honored?

If I were receiving an award, it would have to be for successfully outwitting my students into revealing their true selves.  The award would be called, “You’re Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” award.  And here is how I would win it.

In order to understand teenagers, there are two simple rules to keep in mind.  One, teenagers lie and two, teachers can’t change rule number one.  Given these two absolutes, it has often been difficult for me to educate the true student.  In fact, it has been difficult for me to know the true student.

“Why is this important?” you might ask – or not.  But here’s the answer, anyway.  Knowing the true student, no b.s., no posturing, helps me decide how to teach individuals, not classes.  It also helps me motivate and extract each student’s best work.  Unfortunately, since teenagers are almost always ‘fronting’ in class, getting to know how my students tick has almost always been near impossible, until recently.

I will briefly explain a lesson I created, why it works to break down teenage barriers, and an example of how I know it has worked for me.

“What do you value?” is the essential question in my lesson.  I hand each student a list of about 50 or so values.  The list contains everything from family to money, from education to charity, from spirituality to wisdom.  As we read through the list, I ask students to add anything they think is missing from the list.

Next, I ask students to cross off those things they either do not value, or that hold very little value to them.  They must continue to cross out values until they have only ten (10) values left.  These should be their top ten values.  During this phase, the list of values generally looks something like this:  Family, Money, Physical Beauty, Having Fun, Love, Adventure, Travel, etc.  You get the picture

Following that, the students begin the task of narrowing down their list even further to include only their top five (5) values.  Then, they must number their values from one (1) to five (5), with 1 being the thing on the list they value the most.  Here is a typical list:   Family, Love, Friends, Having Fun and Money, or variations thereof.  I then put my top 5 values on the board without revealing who is the owner of the list.  The list inevitably looks like this:  God, Family, Country, Wisdom and Education.

As an aside dear Readers, that is my true list.  These are my top values because I could not be where I am today without believing in each of those five.

This lesson on values always follows the lesson on character traits so that the students have both a list of their most prominent character traits and a list of their top 5 values.  I then ask for volunteers to hand in their list of values so that I may anonymously reveal them to the class.  As I reveal the values, I begin to describe the character of the person whose list is on the board.  The author of the list usually reveals him or herself rather quickly because here is one of my typical reveals, “Well, since this person values family first, I would say this student is caring.  However, with money and fun on this list, this person is shallow and selfish.  I mean, if you value money and fun over say, truth or justice, you have a shallow character.  And valuing money over friends, well, if this person had to choose, he or she would choose money over friends.”

The anonymous author usually speaks up at this point, “Miss, I’m not selfish.”

“Really?  What character traits do you have on your list?  Do you suppose one of the lists is wrong?  Take another look at your values list and see if you want to change it.”  And usually all of the students want to take another look at their list of values.

Teenagers want to impress their peers, they want to appear cool and that is why what they value must be cool.  Money, money is definitely more cool than spirituality.  However, once they realize that what you value speaks volumes about who you are as a person, they decide to be as honest as they can in revealing their true values, at least in revealing them to me.  And that, dear Readers, is all I wanted in the first place.  Armed with a true set of values for my students, I can begin to understand and educate the true student.

So, that is the lesson and how it works to help me turn my little liars into honest students.  Now, here is the best part dear Readers, how I have used it to help me understand my students.

One year, I had a very difficult 16 year old young man.  He was heavily involved in a gang, he was used to intimidating his teachers, and although he had such disrespect for authority figures (me included), he demanded that authority figures show him respect.  He was intimidating and would create a disturbance the whole class would follow if he felt even the smallest slight.  Once I learned his values, I knew how to reach him.

One day, while I was giving instructions to this students’ particular class, the student stood up and began making his way to the front of the room to throw something in the trash.  As he approached where I stood, I took a step forward so that he could not pass between me and the chairs in the front row.  I wouldn’t move and he refused to make his way to the trashcan by way of the back of the room.  He wanted to let everyone know that he was in charge of his movements within my classroom.  And I wanted everyone to know that he was in charge of his movements as long as they did not interfere with my teaching or they did not get between myself and the rest of the class.  We had us an old fashioned standoff.

“You need to go around to the back of the room,” I whispered to him so that he was the only one to hear me.

“I’m already here, just let me through,” he answered for the whole class to hear.

My response?  Just don’t tell anyone.  Still whispering, I said, “You won’t go around and I won’t move.  See, what we have us here is a pissing contest and I can piss farther than you.  This is my classroom, now go around.”

My response so tickled him that he broke out in a grin and even chuckled.  Then he went around to the back of the class.  In getting to know the true student, I picked up on the fact that I had to be firm and stand up, not back down, every time this student challenged me.  Backing down would only indicate weakness and he had no respect for weakness.

I gained this student’s respect that day.  Not only that, I gained his trust.  By whispering to him instead of calling him out in front of the class, he was able to make up some nonsense when asked what I said that made him laugh.  He was not humiliated and I didn’t lose face.  It was a win-win.

Incidentally, dear Reader, that young man became my top performing student that year.  I’d like to believe that it was my mad skills that brought him around, after all, I did just receive a “You’re Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” award.  Pull the wool over the eyes of a roomful of teenagers, dear Readers, and you, too, can lay claim to that award.  Peace, ~v.