is that teaching?

(this is a random picture... not of the boy that is written about in this post)

This is how you might label him: ADHD. Glasses. Behavior is usually pretty difficult to handle. He always needs something in his hands, but within minutes it changes form and is in pieces. Way below grade level in reading, which limits all other learning areas for him. A handful. Challenging. Drains a teacher’s energy. He spends time at the back table daily. Low academically.

Here is my story about him:

Today in class, I noticed this student reacting to things differently than normal. I asked him, “What’s going on? What’s bothering you?” His response? “Nothing” as he looks down in his lap, obviously replaying some kind of event from earlier in the day. “I can tell something is bothering you, what’s up?” I prodded a little more. And then it came like the flood, tears and all, “My day just got so much badder since I got to school.” “Your day got worse?” I asked, trying to correct his grammar while still being concerned. “Did your day start off bad- before school?” “Yeah.” And more tears came. “My parents won’t stop yelling at each other. I just hate it. It makes me so mad.” More details came, more conversation came- his frustrations with the difficulty of what we are learning in class, how he knows he doesn’t listen and needs to, etc. More details came still, and I turned to him a little while after and I said, “Let me tell you a secret- I know lots of parents that fight sometimes and I know it is so hard to watch that happen. But just remember- it is not your fault. I am really sorry- I know that is so sad to see.” etc. etc. etc. All of a sudden, my small group reading lesson had turned in to a mini counseling session for this poor little boy. After working through some of his feelings and letting him express how he was feeling, I reminded him why we ask him to pay attention and listen in class so much- because he is brilliant and can totally do it!! He said, “Ok, I understand.” Literally from that moment, it was like a light switch when on, the flood has lessened, and he was able to concentrate. All of his actions throughout the morning clearly expressed what was going on inside, both mentally and emotionally.

After they went to recess, I sat there and asked myself: is that teaching? “Absolutely” I said to myself. There is nothing better that I could have done for him in that moment than listened to his heart, given him the safe place to express it, and then moved on to the lesson that was to be learned. For all of the academic struggles that this boy has, I could visibly see a weight lifted off his shoulders when he was able to actually vent what was going on inside of him.

Now, let me just express that this blog is not to toot my own horn, bragging about some great teaching ability I claim to have. But it really got me thinking today. Such a simple, and sometimes common occurrence in an elementary classroom, but yet so critical. How we respond as teachers or even parents in those moments will effect the rapport, the trust, the confidence, and the attitude that our students have towards us and towards themselves.

Another thought I was reminded of because of this situation: so many times, whether we are 7 or 87, our actions are a direct result of what is going on inside. As I am reminded of this more, I realize how much grace I want when I act that way and how much more grace I should be giving to people who act out because of whats going on inside. If these 7 year olds are already facing way more than they should and carrying the weight of divorces, teetering marriages, and academic struggles every day, think about what people much older than that are carrying around. Instead of taking the reactions and words of people so personally, I usually try and think to myself- wow, they must really be hurting for them to have said that or for them to think that acting that way is ok. It completely changes my perspective of the situation and allows me to take less offense and more acceptance for the fact that (gasp!) we are all human. We make mistakes. (gasp!) We mess up and make poor choices, (gasp!) treating people in the wrong way- and usually in a way we don’t want to.

Amazing how one classroom situation can provoke so much thought- but that is why I believe I am entering one of the greatest professions. I get to interact with children who still have ‘child-like’ faith everyday. Literally as children. What they teach me, how they make me laugh, their tender and sensitive hearts, and their joy for life is truly inspiring. And precious.

The best part? That same boy from earlier, came up to me after recess and smiled at me with one of those, “Thank you for hearing me, listening, and caring” smiles. He even tried to pull a prank on me šŸ™‚ Those in the teaching world will totally understand that look, that gesture, or that smile that children so often give us when we take the time to look beyond the classroom at their lives. These children bring a lot into the classroom by 8am and its our job to see that, all the way through.

The best best part? This same boy gave my Master Teacher and I an apple the other day and explained to me, “I saw these beautiful green apples yesterday and thought to myself, ‘I should give one of those to my teachers.'” DUH! Teachers and apples are basically synonymous! šŸ™‚ Loved every second of it, and my interactions with this boy are getting more and more encouraging for both of us.

So how would I label this boy? Such a gift.


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