Time is a commodity at my school. If I have five minutes to spare, I celebrate quickly and then use the time to check my email, use the restroom, refill my coffee, talk to my fellow faculty members, and get ready for my next commitment. Free moments are few and far between here and so it’s always nice to have some extra time in between teaching, coaching, dorm parenting, advising, contacting parents, and preparing for the next week’s lessons. Time is precious and treasured accordingly. With so few days in the classroom to teach each year and so much valuable material to cover and vital skills to teach our students, every day and minute is important.
Today, upon entering the classroom to begin my Humanities class, I heard some grumblings from the boys about things other students had done. They seemed upset about some recent happenings. As I started class, I realized their was still a negative vibe floating throughout the classroom. Rather than move on with the lesson and allow the stress to build up in the students, after I had the students jot down the night’s homework in their planbooks, I stopped the lesson to address the issue. I told the students what I was perceiving. They all agreed and hands shot up to share some of the issues that had popped up today already. A few students had violated the technology use policy at the school. This upset and frustrated the boys. They felt violated and mad. So, I allowed the students to share their concerns. They talked through their problems while we all listened. I validated their feelings and assured the students I would investigate the situation further and deal with it soon. Later in the day, many of my students saw me speaking with the boys in question. They saw that I was following through on my promise. I was building trust with my students so that they feel comfortable coming to me with their concerns and problems in the future.
Following our discussion, we moved onto the day’s lesson. The students were focused and able to work well throughout the period. The body language and overall atmosphere of the class had changed. The boys seemed relieved and calm. Had I not addressed this issue and continued on with the day, what might have happened? Would the stress have caused the lesson to breakdown? Would some of the students had exploded? Would the boys have been as productive as they were had I not provided them the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings?
While teaching time is precious and important, social skills and personal well being are on the same playing field if not even more important than the content area knowledge. I needed to stop and spend 10 minutes to give the students a safe place to vent and share their concerns. The class seemed more successful because I enabled the students to talk and share. Our students need to know that we care. We need to be connected to our students so that we can provide them times like this to share their thoughts and feelings. Our boys need to be heard and feel as though they are being listened to. We need to build trust with our students throughout the year in order for engagement and genuine learning to happen. If the students feel more connected to the teacher, they will be more apt to find the relevance in and engage with the material being covered.
Time is like a rare metal, but as teachers, we need to find the right balance between content and skills and the social pieces. Middle school boys are like Gumby, pliable and squishy until heated. It’s our job to be sure they don’t get too hot under the collar.