So, this year, I actually had a moment of exceeding frustration so intense I had to drink water, walk down the hall, talk to my co-teacher, and get myself together before I went back into the classroom because I absolutely wanted to destroy some student’s pour soul.
At various points during that walk, I blamed the kids, the district, and society at large. The walk was preceded by perhaps the seventh or eighth student coming to me and asking to do the big summative speech alone (without an audience). Instead of losing it on a kid, I just walked out. Here’s how it sounded in my head:
Student: “I’m too anxious to do my speech. I want to do it just for you.”
Me: “Let me understand this. All year, you have disrupted my class talking across the room for everyone to hear but now I have to give you a private session during my plan time so you can get your summative grade and get your speech done without causing you “anxiety.”
Me: “I’m supposed to do that; I don’t want to do that.”
On my walk of shame, I drank water and tried to calm down. Luckily, I ran into my co-teacher (the fabulous Kami Truax). She saw the look on my face and knew something was very off. I very pointedly explained the situation as I saw it to her.
She looked at me and said, “So, they are frightened.”
That hit me hard. (Kami has a way of doing that). I was seeing them through the lens of supreme frustration with my job, my life, and my time on Earth. I had forgotten to see them as scared kids. My life’s purpose all came back to me in a rush.
I was a teacher; I had to teach them not to be afraid and to do this task.
So, I did. I started at the beginning of the unit having them do silly three sentence writing assignments (prompts like “Are Trix just for kids? Why can’t the rabbit have some? Is this discrimination?”). We were doing persuasive papers, so I tried to focus on prompts that would force them to take a stance on something trivial. From there, they had to turn and read it out loud to their table partner. Then, I expanded the groups from dyads to groups of four. The groups of four turned into half class groups.
So far, everyone has taken these mini-assignments in stride and done his/her/their part. We’ve had some fun laughing at the silliness of the prompts and I have been amazed by the kids’ creativity in responding.
At the end of the lesson, I only had three students (all with IEP’s) who needed a small group setting. It worked, and once again I am humbled by how much power I have in the classroom over the outcome of my lessons. When something goes wrong, I need to look to myself first and not blame others. That’s really hard to do as a teacher (especially as one who is used to having all the answers). However, it is incredibly necessary to continue to be a good teacher.