swag: (n.) the way one carries their self
cred: (n.) an ability to inspire belief in others
Apparently I have acquired a pretty positive reputation, and maybe not for all the wrong reasons as I initially suspected. Before the start of the new semester, several students dropped in to announce that they were going to be in my class and seemed fairly excited about it. I can’t pass through the halls during class changes without being greeted by at least five students, sometimes even by kids I don’t know! According to my kids last semester, Miss Duann…
- “brings good attitude to the classroom”
- “easy to get along with”
- “she don’t make things hard on me”
- “she don’t yell alot”
- having a “great playful personality as a teacher some teachers lack”
- “helped me when I needed help, and always provided me with my needs”
That last one resonated particularly with me as both a ridiculously basic and infinitely difficult job description for a teacher. Yesterday, one of the students on my roster showed up in class for the first time all semester and I was trying to get him caught up with his classmates. I pointed him to a web site where he could find information for the assignment, and he said, “Oh, I’ll have to have JJ read that to me…I’m dyslexic.” I asked if he would like me to read it to him. He looked at me in surprise. “You actually believe I’m dyslexic? Wow, some other teachers would be like, ‘I have to check with the office’ or something. Nah, I can read it, it’ll just take awhile. You’re the coolest teacher I’ve had so far.”
I don’t think my jaw dropped but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had. I’m fully aware that a lot of kids are well-versed in the manipulative arts, but in my opinion when a teacher starts assuming the worst in a child, it’s time to find a new profession. (I mean really, if I were treated like that, I wouldn’t want to come to school either!) One of the hardest things for me coming into the new semester was looking at my new roster and seeing names that I’d already heard batted around the teacher’s lounge or seen repeatedly on the ISIP list. But like I said before, I try to see the people my kids could be and help bring that into being, and you know what? The kids I’d been the most afraid of, based on their reputations, have turned out to be just fine, and many of them are doing really well. A lot of my kids’ New Years’ resolutions revolved around staying out of trouble, so I know they’ve been down a bad ways before, but I’m always hopeful that the future has something good.
I know it’s trite, but kids really don’t care what you know until they know you care. If my students learn nothing about science from me at all this quarter, I want them to leave knowing that I’m in their corner unconditionally. Even if they do no work in class at all. (Check.) Even if they don’t show up for the final. (Check.) Even if they bring knives to school and get themselves expelled. (Check.) Even if they promise to make me cry with joy this semester, then run away from home. (Check. By the way, this was the student who told me I had “swag.” I miss him terribly.) Regardless of their actions, I want my words and deeds to show that I care.
This semester I’m having a much easier time with the whole “gentle but firm” thing. It is precisely because I care about these little hooligans so much that I refuse to let them get away with idiocy, and I think it’s making an impression on a lot of my so-called “trouble” students. Kill ’em with kindness, I say.