Getting what we don’t deserve

Wimpy_logoSo, I snuck my Grade 12 Computer Applications Technology students out of class the other day. We got into our cars and drove up the road to the Wimpy nearby. Everyone was allowed a cold drink or a coffee/hot chocolate and we spent an hour just chatting about nothing school-related.

I paid for the students who did not have any money with them. I told them to pay me back but I have no expectations of the money being paid back. I hope they do pay me back, it’s a lesson on being true to one’s word and honouring the honourable actions of others, but that is not my concern.

I do this every year with my Grade 12 classes. It’s “spontaneous” (sort of!) and we sneak out (not really).

Do they deserve it? After their mid-year exam results? No. They do not. But there is a deeper goal in giving them something they don’t deserve. It might actually sound a bit selfish! Keep reading!

Why do it then? Does it have some of sort of academic goal? Can I tie it in to an outcome and call it a “field trip”? Can I quantify their learning experience and qualify a standard of learning because of the activity? Is this to further their academic knowledge and experience and broaden their perspectives for university and a future career.

The answer, to those questions, is no. There is no academic objective. There is no outcome or learning area experience to enhance their educational path as the prepare to leave 12 years of schooling. It’s simply this: Taking a breath of fresh air outside of the four rooms of the classroom to remind myself, their teacher, of the following simple facts:

  • They have ‘attitude’ and I won’t always like their opinions of me, the system or authority, but I can still learn from them to become a better teacher
  • They are not deliberately trying to to hurt me emotionally or break me intentionally, they are still learning about relationships on many levels
  • They’re still figuring out life for themselves and who they are in the world, the pressures on them are far more than just schooling
  • Their journey is only just beginning, but it’s the end of mine with them
  • I am not their friend, but in my classroom, I’m the only friend they’ve got
  • They’re young, immature and reckless but will grow and remember school and the teachers that cared
  • That, even though we may not deserve it, sometimes we get things we don’t deserve and how we respond to those things determines our character and integrity

Frustrated teacherI find a lot of teachers in many schools, at about this time of year (3rd quarter), begin to become negative towards their students. They sometimes cannot stand being in the same class as them. They have simply had “too much” and need some time out. This negativity harms the teacher, makes them ineffective and complacent. It affects the students too, when they see a teacher who has given up on them. I have found myself, at times, dreading a particular class simply because I was so exhausted, so full of negativity and frustration, that I forgot to see the students for who and what they really were. I lost my connection with them and fell back into “machine-mode”. The “this-is-just-my-job” attitude does far more damage to not only oneself but also their students.

Coffee anyone?So, sometimes, it means to literally take a step outside of the classroom, outside of the school and see your students with a fresh pair of eyes. To forget who these students are can happen so easily with the busy-ness of the curriculum, the admin of school, the timetables, the extra-murals, the sports, the extra lessons, the meetings… it all adds up. Do something crazy, spontaneous, different. Bake them a cake, take them for icecream, go and sit under a tree somewhere and promise not to talk “school”. Take them out for an hour or two and watch them, talk to them, listen to them.

Take some time to remind yourself, however you may want to, to see your students with a fresh attitude, a new context, a renewed aptitude towards being the best teacher for that class that you can be. I hope the rewards for you are far greater than can be measured in monetary values or the passing of time.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Matt

    Luckily I’m not classroom bound (which is a pity in many ways) besides once a month. Yet I too get negative, lose all kind of hope and become despondent. The students pick this up pretty quickly and it causes that they too become the same. I have so many students in my CAT group in the grade 10 -12’s and have noticed that in this time they’re also scared to ask questions to avoid you snapping.

    I still have workshops with my students to bring in some fun whilst learning. Break times are over an hour where I sit in between them and we chin chat about everything except schoolwork, as I find it a break for me too. When they talk of things you get to know they student better. This has taken quite a few workshops to do this in, but it makes you understand them better the persons that they are. Many times one can understand the low marks that they get, or their attitudes in the classroom/workshops as its then during these times you see the real person deep inside.

    At the beginning of the year, I bought those that attended workshop pizza (quite a couple of pizzas for 60 students I may add) they were astounded at the act of kindness shown. Every workshop thereafter one would say, I’m bringing milk tart next time, then another would volunteer something else for the next workshop and so it snowballed that every time the children volunteer to bring something. This is then eaten during our hour break which lands up in a big, big circle where we chin chatter about everything. I have found that this builds the connection between you and your students and kind of builds little bonds. I have found that many now see me as “Dear Abby”, they pour their hearts out and sometimes one sees the home situation isn’t that great, but leads you to an understanding of situations which could lead to them acting the way they do when they’re in class and submitting the quality of work they have to do at home.

    Just them knowing that you are there for them, know they do appreciate it, some just don’t show it. I generally get good marks from the students I have seen, the students I know and they know what I expect in return. Having time spent with them outside the school class is awesome, you can only be rewarded by doing that. You have planted the seed, now let it grow – you will reap good crop from that.

    I must give you a highfive on what you did Matt, I think it’s awesome. Have faith that what you did was a good gesture/deed, despite them paying you back, you will receive payment by good marks and them having faith to come to you now with whatever questions they do have.. You have opened a door by doing that.

    Believe me when I say, many may have not shown their gratitude much while with you, but around their dinner tables, you kind gesture was discussed and appreciated. That’s what it goes about – it takes one to give and then to stand back and see the results thereof.

    I wish you luck, you are an awesome teacher and an amazing friend to them and to myself and my students too. Don’t give up hope on them, they’re all amazing kids in many ways.