In need of a purpose for writing, I decided to look back at two previous posts. One of these was my post from Lent last year, which is timely since we start all that sacrificing tomorrow. The other post was my final post from student teaching, in which I talked about the top ten lessons I learned as a student teacher. One particular lesson struck me and sent me on my contemplative way towards a new post. It simply said:
Never give up on a kid. I almost did that. I felt like I had tried absolutely everything, but then I sat and thought about how many other teachers tried absolutely everything and decided to give up. Middle school is when kids start to completely check out. I want to keep my kids checked in, but more importantly, I want them to have a reason to want to come to school. If knowing that one teacher refuses to give up is the only reason, then so be it.
Lately, I must confess, I've been having some hopeless feelings towards a few of my students. I was starting to feel like I had tried everything. But I have not tried everything. There is a plethora of good ideas I haven't even thought of yet. I'm new at this. I will grow every year. I may fail terribly at some of my lessons and explanations and attempts at discipline (which I am terrible at because I can't be mean), but at least I'm failing enthusiastically. And I will continuously try again, until all of them at least kind of get it. I need to constantly remind myself of these things.
Last week, I got a little boost when I had the pleasure of teaching a dance class to our Fundamentals Club after school. I haven't taught dance in forever, and I was honestly very nervous about working with this group of girls. Fundamentals Club is for "at-risk" students, who may consider dropping out later or who are, to say the least, not excited about school every morning when they show up. I was nervous because I could have easily failed in this attempt. They could have thought dance was dumb, or I was annoyingly upbeat, or any number of negative thoughts, but instead they jumped in feet first. It was literally the most fun I have had at school maybe ever. Their smiles were bigger than their faces, and I probably looked like a crazy person teaching them a hip hop dance. Ever since last Wednesday, almost every one of those girls has stopped by my room to say hi or to ask when our next dance class will be. They needed a reason to be excited about school, a reason to not give up. And, in that moment, right before I taught that class, I needed a reason to be excited about school, too. Amidst the standards and testing and stress, the truest wisdom from the middle school is that to make it work, you have to make connections, whether it's in or out of the classroom. Those kids may not remember adverbial phrases, but they'll remember the teacher who stayed after school and danced around the classroom. That's the teacher I always want to be.