Thursday, November 07, 2013

It's Not You, It's Me

Several years ago I had a student in my class who could completely push my buttons. For whatever reason, I found myself irritated with this girl frequently and I did not respond well to her. It was bad for both of us (and likely for others) on a daily basis.
About this time of the year I came across something that changed everything. At the end of each year we fill out a short form about each of our kiddos (basics on academic ability, reading level, and behavior concerns, as well as gender, ethnicity, and language) and use these to help us form the classes for the next year. We're looking to balance all of the above.
Her form had a note that said something like, "sweet girl, hard worker."
I was stunned. That didn't sound like the girl I knew. 
I asked her kindergarten teacher about it and she was as stunned as I was, but for her it was because she didn't recognize the girl I was describing. She offered to talk to the student. I thanked her but declined, with the caveat that I might be back if things didn't get better!
It did get better. Almost immediately. My viewing this student through a different lens completely changed how I interacted with her. It changed the entire atmosphere in our classroom.
About six weeks later she moved. My co-teacher, upon hearing this girl was leaving, said to me, "That's too bad. She was finally getting it." I responded with, "Oh no, I was finally getting it."
This year, I have another of these kiddos. One who, no matter what, is driving me slightly nutty. I know I respond differently to this child than I do to others. I know if any other kid in our class said or did the same things I would be much more patient and gentle and kind. 
Knowing this isn't changing it. I've talked with the fabulous kindergarten teachers (who, in many ways, has the same struggles that I'm having), my co-teacher, and our counselor. But none of them can fix this because the problem is me. (Although they've all been great about helping me talk through it and come up with strategies.)
I can always justify my responses based on this child's behavior. There are plenty of problems with the behavior. But it would only be a justification. I have to change my attitude, my reactions, my responses to this student. I have to change me.
I'm forty years old. This child is six. If I can't change, how can I expect a young child to do so?


Scott said...

Yes. I am here, too. I sometimes don't recognize myself when I react to my "triggers." I was just pondering this when I read your post. And I agree with you. It' s up to me. I vow to have a different outlook and a different outcome. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this wonderful posting. I am a student teacher and I have felt similar emotions in just few weeks of my classroom experience. I loved your last comment about how we as teachers expect students to change themselves, when often times we adults give in to our "triggers." It made me more aware about the different lenses that we use to see our students and how changing own view can make a difference.