Don’t Give Up On ‘Em

Teaching any subject can be a rewarding as well as a frustrating experience. Just the other day, one of my students – V – was talking during class and acting up. She basically refused to do her work. The next day she spent talking to another student, when they were supposed to be doing the assignment.

I was ready to write her off. She was making me very mad at her. The class she is in has a waiting list. A long waiting list to get in it. Kids ask me all the time, “how can I get in that class.” And so I told her that she needed to do better and that if she kept on using her time poorly, she would probably fail.

Today, V struggled to learn a very difficult concept. Many of the students were struggling. But she kept trying. She asked for help and did so without being rude. She kept trying until she got it right.

As the students left class today, I made sure to let her know (quietly) how well she did today and how if she keeps it up (working hard like this) she will be getting very good grades.

It is easy to write off a student. They can make us mad, get on our nerves, stop doing their work, complain, get lazy or a million other things. But in the end, we are the adult. Sometimes it is important to remember that they are still growing up. Just because they have adult sized bodies and try to look or even act like adults, they still have children’s minds. Their mind is still developing and growing. Sometimes it just takes someone to give them a little push in the right direction.

As an elective area teacher with very expensive equipment, I insist on being able to “get rid” of students who aren’t media class material. But my yearbook editors will tell you that I am the king of second chances. I gave one student so many that her nickname was “bubble.” She was always on the bubble between staying and going.  “Bubble” graduated two years ago and it was one of the proudest days of my career.  I’m not saying that I was the only one who got her through school, but she thanked me for giving her so many second chances.  She was also one of the co-editors of the yearbook her senior year.

Sometimes, you do have to let a kid get out of your class. Maybe it is not a good fit for them. Not everyone is cut out for media. Maybe that is the kick in the pants they need. But, first give them enough second chances to make sure there’s nothing else you can do to help them. Don’t just pass on a problem to another teacher – they may be less qualified than you are to handle it.

In the end, I try to remember to treat my students like they were my own kids. I try to treat them as I want my kids teachers to treat them. I hope that I give them a dash of respect, a bit of discipline and a large dose of understanding, compassion and concern. Too many teachers try to teach without empathy. I can’t do that. Does that mean I get burned sometimes. Sure it does. But in the end I think more of my kids do well, than don’t do well.

Finally, you can’t win them all. There will be kids that are resistant to all your powers of persuasion. Some kids are already down a deep hole before they ever get to you. Some will respond to a lifeline, but others will run from your attempts to help them get a good education. Just don’t stop trying to get each of them to learn as much as they can while they are in your care.

I only have my kids for 45 minutes a day, but for that time – I will try to get each of them to do their best. I hate giving up on any of them.

Mr. C

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