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Habit 2

To be curious, critically thinking risk-takers and problem-solvers.

All teachers, at some point in time during their career, struggle with the combination of classroom management and person side issues. I faced my first big test in this area during my Maymester experience. On this particular day, I took the risk to make myself completely vulnerable to my group of fifth graders.

As a teacher, I put a little bit of myself into every one of my lessons, whether it is taking the basic curriculum one step further, developing a new activity or bringing a personal love into the classroom. My Maymester unit was something that I was very proud of. I had spent countless hours throughout the semester working on it. The lessons that I was the most proud of were my trash sorting lessons. These lessons gave the students a safe, but hands on experience counting and sorting their classroom garbagetakingouttrash2. During this process, the students were asked to document their findings and make graphs from week to week.dscf7195

As the students began documenting their progress, some of my students began to complain. “This is too hard,” they would say or “We don’t know how to do this.” As a class, we discussed the results as well as I began the chart for them, thus modeling how to complete the remaining part. One of the girls said that she had finished and when I asked to see her work, she told me to look in the recycling bin. When I pulled it out, the paper had been torn down the middle and scribbled all over. At the sight of her paper, I lost what little patience I had left that day and sat down and had a serious talk with the students.

I expressed to the students that there were other ways that I could have chose to teach them about the things they threw away. I could have made them take notes as I lectured or put together a PowerPoint presentation for them to copy, but I chose to make this as fun and personal to them as possible. After that, I gave them a lecture on the amount of work that I had to put into making this lesson and the lessons that they do everyday. I told them that when the complained or refused to do the work that it hurt me to the point where they could tell I was almost in tears.

I then related this back to some issues that had been present in the classroom for sometime. Girls specifically would often get down on each other making fun of each others’ clothes or class work. I posed the question that if I was 21 years old and still got my feelings hurt when the class didn’t accept me or my hard work, how they thought their classmates felt when they treated them the same way. I then followed that up with the question: how do you feel when you work hard on something and someone says its stupid or makes fun of it.

I do not know which part of the speech made the largest impact, but I do know that before the end of the day over half the class had written me an apology note. It was very difficult for me to show that level of vulnerability, especially in a position of power, however, I think it helped the students to understand that teachers or even classmates were people in general. After that moment, I did not have any objection to any of my lessons. The students were respectful and often remained on task. The whole experience seemed to raise the class to a whole new level of respect and I think part of that was showing to the students that I was truly a human being who leveled with them.

This lesson happened to be a lesson that I was video taping and before the whole situation took place, I had the students tell me that they did not care how they looked on this tape even if they were acting up, which also aided in my frustrations, however, it allowed me not only to reflect on the situation from by point of view, but also the students’ point of view. Looking back, I made the issue more personal than what I intended, however, I think this was part of the reason the students were able to relate to it. I shared with them that I not only teach them daily, but also went to class and I think that the students could understand me better knowing about me. It did, however, cross the line of professionalism, because I related to them from a student’s point of view as opposed to remaining the person in power and from another adult looking in, it could have come across as a venting session, unless you knew the whole story.

I would not change having that conversation with the students, however, if I could do it over, I would have used it more as a teachable moment and relate it even closer back to them personally, or at least relating it personally to them first. In the future, I would like to pay close attention to the interaction between students and teachers and see if the level of human characteristics that teachers show in front of students help to make them more respected by the students because the students are treated like equals.

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