School is back in full swing after a two week holiday for Christmas. I did some serious reflecting over those two weeks, mainly due to a comment made by a student. I had almost the entire grade level in the computer lab where we were watching some Christmas light shows and playing quick games. I displayed this light show featuring the Star Wars theme in honor of the boys in the class, then after a quick game, followed it up with this light show featuring the theme song from Frozen for the girls. The girls were singing at the top of their lungs while most of the boys were grimacing with their hands over their ears. It was rather amusing to me, so I was chuckling to myself when the student said, “Look, Mrs. Peery is smiling! That is a first.” I know the student was jesting, but it still caused me to think about how my students view me. I have been wanting to “poll” my students for a while now, and decided the beginning of a new calendar year was as good a time as any. I created a polling sheet where students rated me a 1 or a 2 on these six characteristics:
A:1-kind 2-uncaring B: 1-helpful 2-cynical C: 1-respectful 2:disrespectful D: 1-diligent 2-lazy E: 1-smart 2:dumb F:1-patient 2:impatient
Students marked their sheet with a 1 or a 2 for each letter. They rolled up their sheet in a ball, and we had a quick “snowball” fight. After a few minutes, each student grabbed a snowball and unrolled it. Each sheet had a pre-printed number from 1 to 6 in the top left corner. After each student filled in the sheet, students were placed in small groups based on the pre-printed number. In their small group, students discussed with each other the behavior I had toward them that would cause them to see me as a 2. They also talked about changes I could make that would help my relationship with them. After a few minutes, students returned to the large group and shared their discussions.
First of all, let me be the first to admit that I struggle in some of these areas. Over the eleven years I have been in public education, I have let myself become cynical. I realized over the Christmas break that I am already frustrated and angry before I even give an assignment or directions. Why? Because I know only half of my class will have listened and be able to complete the task I am asking them to complete. It was also over that two week holiday that my husband and I watched some old movies like Rocky. That is when I came to the conclusion that the way my students’ brains work is different than when I was in elementary school. I told my husband that if we went to the movies today and the action was as slow as the beginning of Rocky, most people would walk out in the first ten minutes. Students today are bombarded by visual images constantly. I do not have any scientific results or data to back up my assumption here, but I realized it is much more difficult for students to hear auditory commands and “make a movie in their head” so they can recall that information when they need it. In other words, I cannot get frustrated with them for their lack of attention if they have no control over it. Students now have a signal they can discreetly show me when they feel I am being impatient of uncaring toward them. I have made a commitment to myself to be more understanding and patient with them and try to discover ways that will bridge the divide between my “way of instructing” and their ability to comprehend.
We watched this cute 4 year old explain New Year’s Resolutions. She helped me remember that change happens with the thousands of little decisions we make each day. It is when we decide to do what is right, instead of what is easy.
After the lesson, students logged in to Edmodo to access a Google Form to put in the information from the sheet they ended up with. Here are the results from all the students that participated. I may repeat this poll at the end of the year to see if I lived up to my commitment.