Do you ever have those interactions with students where you ask them to do something (usually put the phone away, take the ear buds out, or get their head up) and they’re completely pissed at you for enforcing the rules? This student (let’s call her Walnut, since her name is actually a nut), was texting and I called her on it several times. She did what I asked. But afterwards, I was the recipient of the stare of death for the rest of the hour. I do not have the super power of mind reading (thank God), but I think I can make a pretty good guess as to what was going through Walnut’s head. I’m sure I was being called several nasty names and an internal, profanity laced tirade. Her eyes had that tense, pointed stare, the head was slightly tilted, arms crossed, the hint of a lip curl. If looks could kill, I was getting the daggers launched at me. It takes a bit of energy to keep that look going. So eventually she put her head down. I know I’m supposed to not let that happen. But as a teacher, you make those decisions everyday about how many battles you want to wage with one student.
It has been over a week, since the stare of death from Walnut. She seems to be softening. I haven’t gotten that look since. But it’s going to take a good chunk of time to win her over. Slowly, she’s learning that I enforce the rules, and I’m there to help her learn. Just because she’s a pain in the ass some days, doesn’t mean I’m not going to help her. Those days where she’s a pain become less frequent, we develop a relationship, and eventually she learns. It takes time.
In our meeting with the “Data Driven” lady yesterday, she gave us a list of instructional strategies by John Hattie that have “the greatest influence on student learning.” The link is only a partial list of what we were given. But building relationships with students ranks really high. However he has analyzed his data, the strategies with effect size of .4 or greater are the ones that will help close the achievement gap. So apparently my usual mode of operation to get to know the students is a good thing.
We’re already four weeks in to the school year. I have learned most of my 150 students’ names. I’ve had individual conversations with several of them. So I’m working on the “developing personal relationships.” Did I need a researcher to tell me this is a good strategy? I don’t think so. It’s nice to know that what I’ve been doing over my career is a good strategy. It is something that takes time, but I do like to do it. When I know my students and their little quirks, it makes the job fun. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to get to know them. Teaching without the relationships with your students is not nearly as rewarding. So eventually, I hope Walnut and I will come to an understanding and she’ll realize that I’m actually ok and she doesn’t need to put up a tough front. I think she will let down her guard enough to learn. But it will take some careful and deliberate interactions to gain her trust.