One thing that really gets me right pissed is insolence. When teaching, students who willfully ignore me drive me up the fucking wall. They love it; I can only imagine how amusing I look when I get angry.
Another thing that really gets me is when students start to believe that they are stupid. It happens more often than we realize, and it’s rare that students will open up about it. The other day, some students I was working with opened up to me about it.
It’s hard, sometimes, to get through to students that they aren’t stupid when they are ignoring you. Often, I just keep talking, at an ever increasing volume, hoping that I’m getting through to them while they’re chasing each other around the room with a gogurt. Eventually, I yell. It’s such a waste of yogurt.
The other day, however, I was making some progress with a student. He’s a good kid when he doesn’t have an audience to provoke him. He’s aware and sensible when he feels like somebody cares about him. But, he’s impulsive; consequences are something he thinks about afterward.
I spent a good bit of the morning explaining to him that no matter what the other students say about him, he’s not stupid. The reason that he’s perceived this way is because he doesn’t display his capabilities. When he wants something, he’s clever enough to get it. He’s just got to start thinking about what he wants, and work with us – his annoying teachers – to get it. He doesn’t yet know what he wants.
At the end of afternoon recess, he threw a basketball into a classroom and it hit another student in the face. The other student started crying and his nose started bleeding a little – it wasn’t tragic, but it was shocking for our crying friend. Another student, one who I also like to spend some time talking with, defended his classmate. My buddy from the morning and the student with a sense of justice got into a bit of a fist fight. My morning’s buddy ended up getting suspended.
While walking him into the school and toward the office, I asked him why he threw the basketball and why he chose to fight. I reminded him that we had just talked about this in the morning.
Thing is, I kind of get it. Negative attention is better than no attention. I’ve done things that I’m not proud of just to get a response from somebody, sometimes anybody. Sometimes the consequences of any action are meaningless against the reward of just being recognized, of just being shown that you are being seen.
There’s another student who I have an agreement with: every time we see each other, we shake hands and I ask him, “Are you keeping your word?” Every time he sees me, even if I don’t see him, he comes up to me with his hand outstretched. Even when I’m not looking, he knows that I will stop whatever I’m doing to shake his hand. He’s keeping his word.