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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in teacher-student relationships

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At school, we have a new program that allows teachers to monitor students as they work online.  One cool feature allows us to simply shut down a student if he is not on the assigned site for the day.  It is fun watching their reactions to being instantly blocked.

Another great feature allows me to go directly into the document that a student is creating and to join the student in the writing process.  I can add feedback, and I can also help guide a student’s writing in real time.

“Joaquin” is one of my best writers.  I’ve known that since he was a little kid in my fifth grade class.  One of his stories that year was about having a superpower.  The boy wrote about being able to capture all the terrorists in the world and then making them all work at McDonald’s.  After a few days of working the fryer, they all surrender and promise to go home.  Joaquin, the superhero, is celebrated as his neighbors throw a party with ponies and pinatas

Much to the boy’s dismay, I think I shared that story with every teacher at the school.  At the start of this year, I asked him if I could read his story to the class.

He looked at me in disbelief.  “No!” he squeaked.  “You still have it?”

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On the first day of school, Ronaldo entered my fifth grade classroom, a few hundred decibels louder than his peers.  I asked him to quiet down and find the seat I had already picked out for him.  He looked at me, smirked, and sat down. 

The boy was a restless child who had yet learned where his on/off switch was.  He needed to be reminded often to not shout out, to not get up and walk around the room, to not pester the girl sitting next to him.   He also needed to learn that I had twenty-five other students, some of which had more important needs than his. 

Ronaldo drove me crazy with his many interruptions during instruction.  One day, I noted 17 interruptions in about as many minutes.  Most of those were simply attempts to get attention or laughs from his classmates. 

“Mr. Ramsey, can I get a drink?”

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Whether you are a first-year teacher or one who has been in the profession a while, a new school year is always a promise of a new beginning.  You are given a chance to reinvent yourself and the things you do for your students.  You are given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many. 

As a veteran now embarking on year thirty-six, I have learned a thing or two about being successful and being happy in the profession.  I have certainly realized that there will be many days that are difficult - so overbearing that you just don’t know how you can ever return the next morning.  But I have also learned that these moments are there to teach us about ourselves, our craft, and our students. 

Griping in the teachers’ lounge can be cathartic, but carrying the anger, despair and frustration beyond its doors will surely be detrimental to your well-being and that of your students as well. 

A few years ago, I decided that I was going to start a “Fresh Start Journal.”  I vowed that, no matter how difficult my day happened to be, I would write about something from each day that made me smile or laugh or stop and ponder about the life of one of my kids.  Some days it was very difficult – but not impossible - to find that ray of sunshine.  Other days, I had several stories to record.  The point is – for the past five years – I’ve never gone a day without finding a moment that made me grateful for being a teacher. 

After a while, I found myself actively looking for those moments – listening for the funny things kids said, watching for the kind or goofy things kids did.  I didn’t have to think so hard at night when I would turn to my journal because I was purposefully watching for “moments” during my actual time interacting with the kids.  The net result was that I was now looking for the good in my students more than for their faults. 

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The social skill of the week was “Asking Permission.” My seventh graders were writing about an experience that had involved their use of this skill. The room was quiet as they filled out their index cards and as I prepared for the day’s lesson.

I looked up and scanned the room. Everybody was on task. Except Ivan. The squirrely boy was on all fours, crawling on the floor between desks.

“Ivan!” I bellowed. “What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for my pencil,” he replied with a giggle.

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red thread

Doris and Carl Malone sat at their usual table in The Forgotten Crumb enjoying the performances of slightly inebriated patrons searching for their fifteen minutes of fame at the karaoke microphone. The couple had met here nearly twenty-eight years before, fallen in love, and married on the very stage that was now a platform for a middle-aged woman trying her best to sound like Barbra Streisand. She was followed by a young construction worker channeling his inner Barry Manilow and then by an elderly couple singing “I Got You Babe,” expertly and comedically nailing the mannerisms of Sonny and Cher.

Doris relaxed, enjoying the music, but enjoying her time with the love of her life more so. When Carl impulsively rose and moved toward the stage though, she gasped and blushed. This was something she would never consider doing in public despite the fact that she was in front of a demanding crowd of third graders every Monday through Friday. Carl, on the other hand, had no inhibitions, and moved confidently toward the microphone.

With the first few notes of “Song Sung Blue,” Doris felt happy tears rolling down her cheeks. Our song, she mused. Better even than Neil Diamond himself.

“Song sung blue, weeping like a willow,
Song sung blue, sleeping on my pillow...”

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