By Judy Berman
At times, I’ve had to concede to a student’s superior skills in classroom disruption and turn him or her over to the dean.
Others, I bask in the sunshine they spread wherever they go.
Over the years, I’ve had many great kids in my classroom. Sometimes, however, the misbehavior of a few overshadows that. It shouldn’t.
Those rare gloomy gray clouds were dispersed this week by two events: A student that I last saw in 2009 stopped in to visit me and thanked me for helping him learn English. Another apologized for her behavior earlier this year.
The first student, J.R., is a native of the Dominican Republic. When he first entered my class, he knew very little English.
I made an agreement with J.R.’s uncle and father to tutor him once a week at the uncle’s house over the summer.
His uncle asked me what I’d charge. “My price? Someone has to speak to me in Spanish.” He probably thought that was funny, but he did and that helped me as well.
His younger brother and sister joined us at the kitchen table as we played word games, created crossword puzzles and read. One of our favorites was the cartoon book, “Calvin and Hobbes.”
When I heard J.R. explain a cartoon in Spanish to his father and grandmother, I knew he got it. If he had trouble understanding something in a story, I explained that.
As the 2009 summer ended, I was sad to learn that he’d be moving and would be attending another school.
This week, his sister, who I taught last year, told me her brother was coming to visit me.
J.R. brought me a Snickers bar and great news. He just graduated from high school and is looking forward to going to college.
And the books I gave him? He passed those on to his siblings this year.
Sometimes, it’s a challenge forging that positive bond. I question: Is it me? Is it the student? If it’s me, what do I need to do to improve the student-teacher relationship?
This year was no different. There were a couple of students who were determined to remain indifferent to learning. Sad to say, at times, I was THAT student when I was in high school.
Then, there was this bright, chatty, bubbly, outgoing girl who wasn’t working to her full potential.
To cut down on the talking, I moved her seat. Something she was resistant to. A call home did help. Her mother was supportive, and I did see a positive change in behavior.
Over the past few months, she became more engaged in classroom discussions and helped me in class.
The last two days of school, she surprised me. She drew a picture in crayons of us, titling it “BFF since ’09.” (“Best friends forever.” The ’09 part was a gag because we’ve only known each other since August 2013.)
On the last day of school, I visited another teacher’s class. She was there and showed me a red paper heart she’d made. On it, she wrote an apology to me.
She asked me not to read it until after I left the room.
Alone in my classroom, I read her note and was touched by her thoughtfulness. Then, I returned to thank her and told her – joking – that I went thru a tissue box.
That moment when students “get it,” when they realize that teachers really want the best for them … is beautiful, indeed.
My best wishes to all students as you begin the next chapter of your life. Enjoy your journey.
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Main Photo: Education – “Uncertain Future” – taken in 2009 by Daniel Teoli Jr. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Education#mediaviewer/File:%27Uncertain_Future%27_2009_Daniel_Teoli_Jr.jpg
Photo: Teacher and Students – Teacher working with students at Albany Senior High School, New Zealand. Author: Mosborne01 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ashs-teacher-and-students.jpg
Music Video: “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr0tTbTbmVA