Friday, February 6, 2015

That Student

My heart skipped a beat when I saw the student's name on my WIDA ACCESS testing roster.  She was that student.  You know, the one that while not in my class, has gained school-wide notoriety for being difficult.  I actually taught her sister last year.  While her sister fell short of such a well-known reputation, she definitely had her moments.  When I went to pick up Maria to take the speaking test, she immediately rolled her eyes at me.

Once we got into the hallway, I smiled at Maria and asked, "Did you just roll your eyes at me?  Your sister must have taught you how to do that.  I taught her last year and warned her that something like this could happen.  Please tell her I say hello."

To my surprise, Maria smiled back.  She said, "I'm sorry, Ms. Ninja.  I'm actually having a pretty bad day.  Can I please come back and see you after lunch?"  I agreed, but did not plan on actually seeing her again that day.

To my surprise again, Maria did indeed come to my classroom after lunch.  We spoke for a few minutes, took the speaking test and then continued our conversation.  Contrary to her reputation, Maria was extremely well-mannered.  Her speech was peppered with "please" and even "ma'am".

During our conversation, she asked if I knew about her reputation and I admitted that I did. Apparently I also have a reputation, so she felt no reason to have to keep her guard up around me.  I gave her some pointers for dealing with some of the more difficult adults in the building and encouraged her to see me before small problems erupt into bigger ones.

My positive experience with Maria may be a little far-fetched.  I do not teach her on a regular basis, so it is difficult to assess how her behavior can affect a classroom environment.  However, I refuse to believe that a student this polite and self-aware is out of our reach.  Whenever I meet students like Maria, I am reminded of this quote by Haim Ginott and wonder if it is truly part of every teacher's philosophy:

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” 
― Haim G. GinottTeacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers

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