Do your kids ride for you? Nothing is worse then trying to teach the day before a holiday, or a school break. The students are all over the place, LITERALLY! Some are home because they just didn’t feel like coming, and the ones that are there are generally there because their parents forced them to come. Their main focus is waiting for the bell to ring at the end of the day so that they can get the heck out of the building. Honestly, we teachers are waiting for that same bell to ring!
The reality is, even though everyone is mentally checked out we can’t just sit there all day and have the students do nothing. Even though it would be really nice if we could. So we plan group work, or some type of activity that’s engaging, productive, and maybe even a little fun. These days, the students are generally pretty loud and for a lack of a better term, “out of control.” So, what happens when someone comes into the room for a random observation that day ? All you can probably think about is, dang I’m fired. LOL. I’ve had a similar experience, in my classroom. Except, it wasn’t the day before a break, it was the day after the 2016 election.
The kids were all over the place emotionally, due to the results of the polls. The first thing the students said to me in response to me greeting them at the door was, “Ms. who you vote for? Better not be trump or we not friends.” All I could think was, dang this is going to be a long day! I started off each period, literally each one, explaining to students that it is inappropriate to ask their teachers, or anyone for that matter, who they voted for. The kids just did not understand why it was inappropriate to ask, because they really wanted to know, and had no bad intentions. So after a conversation about why ballots are anonymous, which went nowhere, I had to move on and attempt to get through at least part of my lesson. Now I’m just thinking, well there goes the time for my opening exercise.
So I start the lesson with an overview of what the students would have gotten out of the opening exercise and how it will relate to the rest of the lesson. I knew I had to keep the lesson short because today the students had such a short attention span. After the mini-mini lesson I gave and about two guided questions, I decided it would be most productive to allow students to work as pairs the remainder of the period. That way they could talk while they worked. Five minutes in, and I’m thinking lord please don’t let anyone walk in here because these kids are loud as heck!
Before the words could come out of my mouth, a colleague walks in and the class gets silent. I mean not one word being said, pure SILENCE. The look on my face had to be priceless, because I was so confused. Literally 5 seconds prior they wouldn’t shut up, and now they are literally mute. After I have a short conversation with the teacher, he leaves and I walk to the front of the class and just stare at the kids. Finally, one of the students said, “Ms. why you looking at us like that?” For a moment I didn’t say anything, then I asked them what made them turn silent when the teacher walked in. One student immediately said, “because we gotcha Ms. we not gon make you look bad. You the homie.”
I had to laugh, because I’d like to think I’m a pretty strict teacher. So the thought that they felt this way amused me. I love to entertain conversations about how students feel, and why. So I asked, “well why do you have my back as opposed to your other teachers? Because I’ve been in some of your other classes and I see how y’all act.” One of my most difficult students responded, “cuz even though you get on my nerves, I can tell you care. You really want to make it easy for us to learn, and you don’t play no games.” Then another student chimed in with, “when I was upset and just had a bad day, you asked what was wrong and then spoke to Mr. ****** to let him know why I didn’t participate today.”
That legitimately made my day. It gave me the feeling that these kids really do ride for me. They ride for me because they know that I ride for them. They know that I’m here for them, and I want them to succeed. They know that even though they can be a pain in the butt, I’m always going to be there to support them inside the classroom and outside of it as well. You want to know why some students come to class and show their teachers no respect and do no work? It’s because they have no relationship with that teacher. Oftentimes teachers get so caught up in teaching content, that they forget we spend more time with these students then their own parents. They are in our care almost 8 hours in the day, and our job as teachers isn’t to just teach them English or Science, it’s to teach them life lessons as well.
Oftentimes those lessons have to do with, respect, control, coping, and relationships, which are lessons that don’t generally make it into our lesson plans. But how can you teach those lessons, when you have no relationship with your students. When they know you don’t want to be there and are just there for a check. Or when they can tell you have no empathy for the things that they deal with on a day to day basis. My students ride for me not only because I’m effective, but because it’s clear in my day to day interactions with them that I too ride for them. Ride for your students and see how much more productive your classroom will be.
The simplest how’s your day going, goes a long way. Because even though they might not want to talk about it, they know they have at least one person in the building they can come talk to when they’re ready. These kids go through more than you think, and unless you genuinely care, you would never know. So, ride for your students, get to know them, and they too will ride for you!
I would love to hear (well read) your thoughts, comments, and/or similar experiences. Feel free to leave them in the comments below.