The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 27 2013

You’ll Thank Me Later

Day 161: Friday morning, we took the entire sixth grade to the Upper School – the 7-12 campus where they’ll move after this year. We saw the recess yard, we met the principal, and we had a tour of the 7-8 building where they’ll have all of their classes.

Two items stand out. First, we ran into a bunch of my kids from last year. They included one who actively hated me, one who wrote on her final that I was mean and had lots of consequences and she was happy to be done with me, and one whom I struggled with all year (he liked to call out and curse in Haitian Creole). All three were beyond excited to see me; there was lots of “Hi! I missed you! Do you remember my name?!?”

First, this means your average 12-year-old likely has a short memory span. Second, this likely means kids appreciate you more than they can express in the moment. In the day-to-day of learning – and occasionally not meeting expectations – a student might think he or she hates your guts. But flash forward a year, and those day-to-day moments might not measure up to a year of relationship-building and, just maybe, fun in the classroom.

The second thing that stands out is that, by and large, my kids were great (aside from the giant argument on the bus that they deserved to be in the back). They quieted down when they were asked. They listened attentively. I remember last year’s tour, when not only were my sixth graders unruly, they were also rude. The whole day, it seemed as if they were saying, “I can’t wait to be here, and ditch my current teachers.” While that is, of course, natural, it didn’t feel wonderful.

Some of that is just the fact that this is a different set of kids. But some of it must also be that, slowly but surely, I have become the type of teacher who commands respect. When I stopped my students before getting off the bus and told them to make a good first impression, they listened. When I told students to get their friggin’ butts on the seats, they did.

I can think of more than a few students who will be happy to leave me and my “nagging,” as one put it last week. But until then, I can tell that when I ask for something to happen, it happens. While that doesn’t always look pretty, and rarely comes with smiles, I’m proud that we’re ending the year with a certain level of focus and diligence.

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