Recalculating the relationships I have had with my students over the years, I can safely say that my success has come from my willingness to give second chances and to be fair at all costs. In the profession of education, it is quite easy to fall into a rut and go through the motions. We can get to a place where we approach the classroom as an assembly line and give every student the same package. As you may know from even your own experiences in the classroom, all people don’t learn the same. So Day To Day occurrences come as diversely as the names you read on your attendance sheet and there is a huge difference between equal and fair.
Though being able to “switch it up” is nice, its even more important that we as teachers remember who we are dealing with; KIDS! No matter how grown they may look, dress, or sound; there is still a child embeded in the people that hourly invade our classrooms. All “kids” want is to “matter” to the people they interact with daily.
The urban school students, more than any other students, come from home lives that we could never imagine. Poverty is as sad a situation as its definition is broad, and no matter how parents and students try to dress it up it’s a great chance that the student will fail. If poverty doesn’t create a hunger within the child to want better, poverty will win. Unfortunatly, it’s up to us to nurture that hunger, yet we most often discourage it.
We often complain about students in urban schools with the latest and greatest shoes, no school supplies, no homework, and poor attendance. The child isn’t soley at fault. In fact I have grown to understand that the purchase of latest Air Jordans gives the student in poverty their only chance at blending in, and to blend in is what matters most. Purchases like these have become parents main attempts to “parent.” Because of the lack of positive attention, kids self esteem are placed in what they wear. This is why the “hood” is outfitted with the most expensive wardrobe. This mentality only grows up and reproduces putting more value on superficial appearance and not self worth.
As teachers we have to help reshape the MENTALity of these children to focus on education being the key to equalizing their situations.
We fail as teachers when we spend more time on problem children than we do on the achievers and over achievers (academic and athletic) – we tell them that in order to get attention they have to be bad.
We fail as teachers when we don’t listen to their actions as well as their words- their body language tells us more than they will ever say. Listening to body language prevents conflict from manifesting into negative outbursts.
We fail as teachers when we call fair, treating everyone the exact same- the extra time that one student is given can be the motivator to finish while for another student could cause him to devalue the assignment.
We fail as teachers when we prejudge our students- everyone deserves second chances, kids deserve third, forth, and fifth chances.
We fail as teachers when we don’t take care of ourselves- our presentation and our health are indirect lessons we teach our students everyday.
Teachers teach more than their subject. They teach life. Much of the lessons that students learn about their lives in your class come from the lives they see us live.