I have been teaching for 35 years now. I must say that the good has far outweighed the bad by a long shot! I have been very fortunate that I haven’t gone to a job every morning. I have lived a wonderful professional career! But after 35 years and counting, if I’m not careful there are things my students do that can quickly get under my skin. I was reminded of this the other day.
I am a sports public address announcer in my free time after school. Between my local district, section, state and Syracuse University, I call more than 120 games a year. These games are a lot of fun to announce and I look forward to each of them. This is my way to add a bit of a professional sounding touch to these games (at least I hope!).
I was announcing at a recent high school lacrosse game with our varsity football coach who was running the game clock. He is a National Board Certified high school social studies teacher. While he is a tremendous football coach, he is far from the stereotype. He will honestly tell you that he is more pleased with the outcome of a great lesson plan than a great game plan.
While we were working together, we got to talking about the dumb things kids sometimes do in our classes. He had a great comment for this type of behavior. He said that while he has taught for almost 30 years now, he keeps reminding himself that this is the first year entering students get to be high school freshman.
He wasn’t excusing some of the crazy and often inappropriate things he has seen high school students do over the years, but told me that remembering this is their first time as freshmen helps him keep things in perspective: Through thinking this way he finds it much easier to meet his students where they are. And from what I can tell, his students not only like him but they enjoy doing the work he expects from them.
What a great way for all of us to think about the students we teach! Now of course there are certain expectations that I hold kids in my classes to and they all know that. They understand that I am there to help them master some skills, learn how to work with others, and constructively contribute to the group. But when a seven-year old comes into my gym higher than a kite because it is his birthday, I’ve learned to use that information, run with it, and not let it ruin my lesson.
I tell myself that he should be excited even if it’s the last class on a Friday afternoon! It’s his first time being seven! When a kindergartener runs across the gym screaming at the top of her lungs, it’s not because she’s trying get on my nerves, it’s just how her enthusiasm comes out. It’s her first time being six years old! Now, I will work with her to tone down the screaming, because it is distracting. She’ll learn from me that there are better ways she can express her enthusiasm. But my job is to keep her enthused enough so she can express it appropriately.
What we can’t lose sight of is that we work with young people for a living. We chose to do this and with that choice comes the behaviors inherent with being a kid! While we teach our kids to behave and learn in a positive manner, let’s all remember it’s a process. It’s not something that we can “solve” in a lesson or two.
My building is K-4 so I often think of my kindergarteners as being on a five-year plan. I have the next five years to get them focused on something and to show them how to enjoy learning the skills and knowledge I will offer them. I don’t have to solve it all today. Neither do you! Students are supposed to do goofy things now and then. It’s their first time being kids.
While we all take valuable time to rest and recharge for next fall, I encourage you to keep in mind that we chose to work with our kids, no matter how they may push our buttons now and then. That’s just part of the territory we all signed up for and most of the time love doing. Just remember that we all used to pick our noses once too and we all seemed to turn out pretty good. Have a great summer!!