It was yet another unexpectedly challenging day with my students. One of our classmates is particularly pesky, often seeking attention from negative behaviors. It hit a peak today. As one student said when she came to me to tell me that he had poked holes in her tupperware with her fork and eaten the rest of her orange when she stepped away from her desk, “It’s one of those camel and straw times. I just can’t take it anymore.”
So, instead of completing a lesson on identifying author’s purpose, we sat down in a circle for a class meeting. I think the kids needed to vent and I think the instigator needed to hear how much he was bothering his classmates. They were brutally honest but in a very controlled and calm manner. After about 15 minutes of listing all of the offenses, I worried that this wasn’t such a good idea. At one point, he said, “It doesn’t matter to me. I hate all of you anyway.”
And then a literary moment arose that got us back on track. We have been reading Gertie’s Leap to Greatness as a read aloud. One student finally got the ‘talking cowboy’ handed to her and simply said, “It sure feels like we are treating him just like Gertie’s classmates are treating her. We are ganging up on him for a not very good reason”. And the tone made a 180 degree shift. Each student began to talk about how they could help him to make better choices. Students started taking responsibility for their contribution to his behavior – from laughing at him to not calling him out when he is off task. They recognized that his home life is not ideal and not his choice and how hard that must be for him. Each of them reiterated that they really like him, it is just his behavior that can be frustrated. And he calmed down and started listening.
We were 20 minutes late to the library, we didn’t clean up the room as we rushed out and I had to spend my time after school stacking chairs and putting away pencils. But we did end our meeting by circling around our student and pledging to help him be his best self. We chanted that we liked him, we thought he was awesome, and we were going to make tomorrow a better day.
We were supposed to be using those 45 minutes to prepare for our state standardized testing that start tomorrow. I’d like to believe that our 45 minutes was better spent preparing for how to get along and how to support everyone. The growth that happened in my class today won’t show up on some report next fall, but I felt it happen in the most tangible and real way today. Take that, PARCC!