Thinking back to when my son was six or seven years old, he struggled to make good choices. He needed to be reminded to clean up his toys several times before he would actually do so. Back then, I thought he would never learn to take care of his stuff. Fortunately, children grow up and mature. While his room is sometimes still a mess, he does generally pick up after himself, and sometimes without even being asked to do so. People do and will grow and change. Progress just takes time. Sometimes change comes about quickly, like the weather, and sometimes change comes slowly, like my son learning to take care of his hair. For the longest time, my wife and I would have to brush it for him or it would be a tightly tangled mess. Now, he carries a brush around with him like a security blanket. It only took eight years for him to figure this out. For some people, change takes even longer than a mere eight years. Some people do not change until they are well into their forties or fifties. The caveat here is that change will only occur if the person wants it to happen. If I don’t really want to exercise, but I try it a few times, I won’t ever stick with the routine and no real change will take place. I need to want to exercise in order to be healthier. Then, and only then, will change take place.
In the classroom, I see all types of change and attempted change on a yearly basis. Some students make changes to their study habits after the first marking period when they earn grades that they feel don’t display their true abilities. They start working harder in class and spending more time outside of class to complete work. Other students may try to change after the first marking period, but struggle to do so consistently. They may have a few days of strong effort during which they turn in quality work that showcases their ability to meet or exceed the graded objectives. Then, they revert back to their old habits of turning in work late or just completing the bare minimum to get by. Some people struggle to keep the fire within burning brightly day after day. It’s hard work to stay focused and complete great work each and every day. However, some people are motivated to do this and will make it happen.
As a teacher, I see most of my students, on average, make progress after the first full term of classes. They need to practice good habits and learn effective strategies to be successful before they can apply them, and this takes time. Prior to the winter break, many students are beginning to change and grow as students, thinkers, readers, writers, people, and learners. The big changes, though, aren’t usually evident until right around this time of the academic year. This is when, as a whole, the class starts to gel and come together like a perfect puzzle. They went through the storming phase of group dynamics for about four months until they entered the norming phase. Now, the boys are understanding each other on a much higher level. They can anticipate behaviors and predict outcomes. They know each other’s likes and dislikes. They are forming strong bonds and friendships. They are transforming into a real family. Again, progress and change take time. The boys needed to realize that they wanted to come together as a group to do great things and earn positive rewards as a class before change could happen.
Today was a prime example of this change taking place in the classroom. For the past several months, the students have struggled to effectively participate in our weekly farm fun days. Many of the students were easily distracted and unfocused during our farm days. Some of the students failed to record their findings and noticings in their farm journal on a weekly basis. I needed to speak to several of the boys about their behavior almost every week. While last week was a bit better, I did still have to talk to three students about their misuse of language. Prior to today, our farm visits resembled a beautifully clean carpet in a house filled with children and animals. While in the morning, the carpet looked spotless, after a few hours of the animals traipsing around on it with their dirty paws and the children spilling food drink upon it, it looked like a messy surrealist painting. The same thing was true about our farm days. The boys would begin our farm time being very focused, and then after about 30 minutes, many of them were running amok, despite clear expectations. Then, today happened, and after our two hours of farm fun, our student carpet remained intact and still resembled a carpet. The boys listened to our farm instructor, followed directions very well, wrote in their farm journals, and showed compassion to their peers. It was an excellent day and by far the best farm day we’ve had all year. The boys made the change because they wanted to. I think they were sick of hearing me remind them of the same things week after week. They wanted to show me that they could meet all of the lofty goals I set for them. They wanted to make the changes needed to be successful and so they did. Although it took them about 15 weeks to change, they finally did. Progress takes time. Earth didn’t always look like it does now. It used to be a massive fireball covered in volcanoes spewing lava into the air. Now, Earth is a magnificent place filled with beautiful oceans and spectacular mountains. Change takes time, but will happen eventually. As my mother used to remind me on an almost daily basis when I was younger, patience is a virtue. So, as a teacher, I try very hard to be patient and remind myself that my students will change, eventually. They will all figure things out for themselves. Man, I hate admitting that my mom was right back then. Mothers are good like that.