Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's All About Me

I've got a little darling this year (it is first grade, most of them are pretty darling) who drove me nuts at the start of the year. She seemed snarky, if first graders can be snarky. She could push my buttons (see how it's becoming about me already).

We've all seen this happen when a student can just drive a teacher nuts. Some personalities just clash and being a teacher doesn't make one immune to this, unfortunately. Other teachers working with my class would also get highly annoyed by this little one. That was somewhat reassuring, suggesting that I was not the sole problem.

However, I'm smart enough to realize that I was at least a part of the problem. So, I decided I needed to build a better relationship with this one, and a few others while I was at it. I started inviting one child to pick a friend and eat lunch with me two or three days a week. To be honest, I find this almost painful because I highly value that time alone or to talk to other teachers, but I began with this student. It helped, but we still would butt heads a lot.

Then, by chance one day recently I came across the forms the kindergarten teachers filled out at the end of last year to help them create this year's first grade classes. These help us ensure well balanced classes: gender, ethnicity, reading ability, etc. This little one's kindergarten teacher had written "produces nice work, very sweet" about this child. I was shocked. That did not describe the student I knew (or thought I knew) at all. I went to this teacher and she was just as shocked to hear me describe the girl.

I can't say things are perfect now with this little one. But the difference is amazing. She's the same child she has always been. I just see her and respond to her differently. I'm more patient. I smile rather than frown. I gently remind rather than explode.

I am the difference. Like it or not, I have the control and power, even when I'm not aware or thinking about it.

I wish I could say I now respond to all my students in such a positive way. I can't, I'm far from perfect. I do believe I am striving for respect and kindness in all my interactions. I don't expect to succeed constantly, but I hope for continual improvement.


Kathy Cassidy said...

I SO admire your transparency. You are an inspiration to me and make me a better teacher by what you write.

Sarah said...

You're a better person than I am! I really admire that you went the extra mile and gave up some of your lunch time to build better relationships with your students.

And what a great reminder that we, as teachers, are the ones who can make or break a child!

Paul Bogush said...

"I am the difference."
If kids were rivers, too often we try to always sail upstream, force them to change the direction they flow, or put a dam in front of them to just make them stop and stay still. I think you found out that when you go with the flow it's a lot easier ;)

How about that comment from Kathy above! That is a comment that everyone who blogs would want to hear. I am positive there are so many more people who read your posts like this one and share her sentiment. Great post!

Aimee Cotton Bogush said...

I appreciate your honesty here and you have certainly hit on what I consider a "universal truth"! Your students are lucky to have a self-knowing and sensitive teacher.

KellyTeaches said...

I can definitely identify with this post. I had a little girl last year who drove me crazy. I later found out why she was the way she was (home issues) which changed my whole attitude about her and in turn, totally changed her behavior! Um, why didn't I try that in the first place!? I now hear the first grade teachers talk about getting annoyed with her and I wish I could pass some of the patience I developed on to them, but of course people have to make their own decisions about these things.

Deb Frazier said...

Thanks for being so open and honest, Some kids do require more of us than others, I have few too. Tomorrow will be a better day~

Jenny said...

Writing this post, trying to put into words what I felt, was harder than I had anticipated.

Kathy, thank you for the kind words. You are such a model for me and your words mean so much.

Sarah, thanks for understanding the lunch time issue! I'm guessing non-teachers won't really understand that.

Paul, that analogy is fabulous. That'll be on my mind when I realize I'm on the wrong side with a kid.

Aimee, I wish it were a universal truth - I can't seem to remember it!

Kelly, the more I know about kids the better I interact with them. Some teachers in my building do home visits in the beginning of the year and it's a goal of mine to do so (sometime in the future!) because I think I would have a much better understanding and picture of my students through that.

Snippety Gibbet said...

I can so relate. The little boy I mentor is on a behavior plan in his classroom, so I expect he has, well, problem behaviors. But since I have only known him from a mentor's perspective, I only know him as someone special to me. I am quite aware that I do relate to him in a more familial way than I do his classmates and we get along so wonderfully. The days we eat lunch together are not my favorite lunches, however, there is a definite payoff.