oh well ⇒ bathroom tears

 

Well, I told my gym teacher that my group wasn’t being fair.  He said, “Oh well.” I told him I needed to go to the bathroom.  I left to go cry.  ~11 year old girl

One of my little 6th graders with a pip-squeaky voice related this story to me when I found her in the hallway.  Today is only the third day of school.  Only her second gym class.  Only the first time she changed shoes and actually ran around in gym class.  Already, she is struggling.

To be fair to my colleague in physical education, I have learned that group dynamics are tough for this little girl.  She is on the autism spectrum, she is physically littler than most of her classmates, and she has this cute, high-pitched voice that says whatever comes to her mind.  Working in teams is not her favorite.  If she must work with others, she needs to make the decisions and be the leader.

It’s the third day.

Only the third day.  Only the second time she has interacted with this teacher.  Only her first time asking for his help.

Every child has the right to be seen, heard, and valued.  When my little 6th grader told me she needed to cry in the bathroom, my heart twinged with pain.  Her issue was not seen as important enough to investigate.  She did not feel heard.  Her perspective was not valued.

Creating and equitable classroom is not magic. It does not happen easily.  It comes with lots of time, patience, reflection, dedication, questions, trust-building, relationship-forging.  Equity begins with ensuring that our students know they are wanted, they are valued, they are needed in our classroom.  If they are gone, the classroom is not the same without them.

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When an issue arises, not matter how large or small, we as educators make the decision of how to help our young ones come to a resolution.  “Oh well” is not a resolution.  It does not satisfy the need to be heard and valued.

No kid should have to leave class to cry in the bathroom because of our words.

 

child + learner = student

At the core of any good classroom is a supportive, trusting relationship between student and teacher.  In my early career days, I knew it was important to get to know my students, but I didn’t prioritize this foundational aspect to the degree I now do.  Why?  My students are children first.  They are little human beings who have passions, dreams, fears, anxieties, silly moments, sad times, crazy adventures…

A neat activity my colleague did brought me much insight into my own kiddos.  This activity was easy, quick, but insightful.  She simply asked the students to write down 3 things that are important about them.  Then, she asked them to write down how they learn best as a student.  With some prompting and scaffolding, students understood what it meant by how they learn best.

The results were insightful, funny, “typical middle school”, heartfelt, sometimes sad, but above all reflective of the fact that these students are children first and foremost.  One student listed his 6 other siblings in order (he is the 2nd).  Another made sure we knew her sister was in our school (of course we knew, but she is proud of it).  One boy cared to share his little sister is a premie. Family remained a central theme.

Other students shared their love of drawing, reading, playing video games, or being in sports.  One little girl shared her love of 1. Art, 2. Nature, 3. Nature & Art.   Some wanted us to know qualities about them, like they are helpful, shy, talkative, or dislike photos being taken of them.  These nuggets of information helped establish that each student is a child first, a person, a little human being.

What was so telling was the way these students were able to share about their needs as learners.  Students wrote about needing fidgets because they get antsy or have ADHD.  Many shared their preference for learning: reading, listening, hands-on.  Some advocated to sit in the front so they can focus; others wanted us to know they prefer working alone or in groups.

Students know themselves as learners.  They know their strengths and weaknesses.  They were brave enough to share with my colleague, who gratefully shared with me. These little notecards are the introduction to these kiddos.  Time to learn the rest of the story and write the next chapter together.

Cool = Cool = Cool

School started today.  As with any new group, we are all getting to know one another, from names to personalities to gender. Yes, gender is something we learn through expression–be it name, clothing, appearance.

One young boy of 11 years old wears his hair long.  During a group activity, a little girl pointed to this long-haired boy, looked at me, and said, “I forget her name.”  Her name.  The young boy sheepishly looked away.  The rest of the class snickered at the gender slip.

All, except one self-aware boy.  Right as I was about to step in to stop the giggling, this boy said, “Hey. Who cares if he was a girl? He’s cool.  Doesn’t matter if he’s a boy or girl. Cool is cool.”

Wise words for someone so young.

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