This article was written by Tyler Brown — a 6th Grade English teacher, Varsity Football and Baseball Coach in Upstate New York. Check him out on Instagram.
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Think about “That" student. Now think about your morning routine. You wake up, have your coffee, maybe check the news on your phone/tablet/computer. You leave your home, drive in your car, and show up to school. You have creature comforts, things that make your day easier.
Now, think about “that" student in your classroom. They just stole a classmate’s snack, and when you ask, they lie and say they didn’t.
“That" student just stole their classmate’s pencil. They lie, and say they found it on the floor.
“That" student acts out in class, and instead of correcting their behavior in a positive way, you write them up, give them detention, move them away from the rest of the students. This goes on for days, weeks, months.
Later, “that" student is brought up in a meeting amongst other faculty, and you hear the others speak about them, and hear things like, “just want to give up on them,” “why spend the effort on them,” and “why does it even matter, they don’t try anyways.”
One day, “that" student misses school for a week. At first you breathe a sigh of relief, thinking you don’t have to deal with them. A few days pass, your class runs smoothly. A week passes, and suddenly you start to worry. Where is “That Student?”
Your counselor calls you down for a meeting. “That" student was removed from their home because of CPS/family emergency/uncontrollable circumstance. Now your eyes are open, you start to recognize “that" student is “Your Student.”
Maybe they stole a snack from a classmate because they wake up and they don’t have breakfast. Maybe when they wake up, everyone in the house is working, and they have to fend for themselves. They are in fight or flight mode. Maybe they are waking up on a couch. We don't know.
Maybe they stole a pencil from a classmate because they want to succeed in your room, but they don’t have the resources to do so. Resources both physically and mentally. They don’t know how to ask for help. They do what they have to do to be prepared.
Maybe they act out in class because it’s the only time that someone recognizes them for something, and they feel like someone knows they exist. Nobody gives them any attention at home. They feel like they're invisible, and nobody cares.
Maybe they’re vying for your attention because they want to improve. In fact, they need the most help, as nobody helps them, and they’re not happy with that. Maybe your class is the only place they get food, the only place they can learn, and the only place where someone even recognizes that they’re there. We don’t know these things, but it’s important for us to recognize this.
So next time "that" student is driving you insane, try to remember, "that" student is "your student" and your student wants to be a part of your class. Your student wants you to be a part of their day. Your student wants to succeed, be recognized for it, and learn.
Being in your room helps them feel safe. Being in your room, where someone actually cares about them makes them feel needed. Being in your room is the best part of their day.
We need to show ALL students that we care. We need to show EVERY SINGLE ONE that they matter. We need to show them that having them in our room is the best part of OUR day.