Mamacita says: Size doesn’t matter. It’s never mattered. Age doesn’t, either. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are circumstances wherein both age and size DO matter, (ya pervs ya) but what I am talking about here is education. Classrooms. Curriculum. Seatmates. Consequences. The usual. (Have we met?)
In a perfect world, everybody knows how to behave properly and does so. Once in a while, we as teachers are lucky enough to get a classroom of lovely students who know how and who do so. Those years pass by really quickly. Teachers pass this information along from Kindergarten Day One. “Wait ’til you get this class; they’re lovely!” “I hate to let this group go; every day is better than the one before!” You get the picture.
Then there are the other kind of groups. Teachers pass this information along, too. “Brace yourself; this is the worst group EVER.” “I cry all the way home every single night.” You get this picture, too.
The fact that every once in a while, every once in a blue moon, we get a class of students who honestly represent that perfect world, keeps us going.
The fact also is that most of my favorite students were in some of the worst classes that ever congregated on the face of the planet. And some of my favorites were also responsible for that class being the worst of the worst.
My point? Do I have to have one? I guess I can drag one in by the hind legs and say that we never know where the quality is going to come from, and that sometimes, just sometimes, if we assume every class we get is going to be that perfect world class that makes us happy every day and confirms that teaching is our true calling, then maybe that class will live up to those expectations.
Not all of them. That was one of the hardest lessons for me as a teacher to learn. There will always be some who defy every technique, and can’t even be bribed into decent behavior. But most students? Yes, MOST STUDENTS. Are, even under exteriors rougher than we could ever understand, solid quality and cool. The digging makes it even more of a treasure when we finally find it.
Advice? You want advice from me? Sure. Here’s my advice. Never stop digging. There’s gold in them there hills, but it’s not going to erupt out of the dirt and leap into your arms. It requires work. Sweat. Tears. Sometimes a bit of blood.
And trust. Teachers must trust themselves even when we don’t know what we’re doing or how to do it. Teachers must trust the students even when we don’t know if there’s anything valuable enough to mine behind that sullen, violent face.
But here’s my biggest hint to you: There always is. Just keep digging. Never stop digging. It’s there.
The biggest, and the smallest, and the oldest, and the youngest, students in your classroom are all worth the digging. If they fight you, fight back.
Mostly, though, try to laugh with them.
We have no idea what our students go “home” to when they leave the building.