Have you noticed that...
Things start to get a little crazy on campus as we approach Halloween?...
Things on campus stay a little crazy until Christmas break...
Things get a little crazy on campus during football or basketball season...
Then there’s the time leading up to Prom night...
And, of course, every campus is blessed with “senioritis,” (and "junioritis" and "sophomoreitis" and "teacheritis!").
I tell my tutors that if they aren’t having problems, I won’t believe they are actually working with children. Both the beauty and the frustration of teaching is that, at the same time, it can be both structured and unpredictable. Teaching can’t be programmed in a neat little package. Schools that endeavor to put children in a “learning box” and ask all teachers to do things the same way are destined to failure. Teachers in these settings lose their creativity and passion.
So...leading up to the holiday season, here are four guidelines for what to do when you observe a student’s behavior that causes you to wonder what is going on in their lives:
- Talk About It. I often thought, as I read student essays, “S/he must not have wanted me to read that.” I now know those students are actually begging someone to be brave enough to ask questions. It is their cry for help. I always feel inadequate and overwhelmed when I think of delving into another’s life crisis; but when I jump in, I also always find a strength or resource I didn’t know I had.
Talk It Over With a Supervisor. You never violate confidentiality when you discuss a concern with a supervisor in an effort to determine your course of action. One teacher I know suspected child abuse and started to talk to her principal. The principal said, “Stop. If you tell me what I think you will, you need to know that I will report it, and that child will be taken from his home. You will go with me to court to make that happen.” She said, “I don’t believe children should be separated from their parents so I won’t tell you.” Within the next week, that child was badly bruised from physical abuse. When she saw that, she found within her the strength to do what had to be done. When abuse and dysfunction are involved, pretending you don’t see the signs doesn’t make them go away. Most of our children don’t need help this drastically; but when they do, we are mandated reporters and we must act.
- “Carefront.” This
is the process of student confrontation we use in SCORE. From
research, we learn that the “unwilling/unable” student needs you to
“shoot straight.” They also need you to care. Don’t talk around the
issue; tell the student what you see. As you talk, write it down so
they can both see and hear it. Talk in three columns: Before, Now, and
Now Then.... “Now Then” is their commitment with you for an acceptable
compromise as they work through their current crisis. Offer to help
them through their circumstance (tutorials, grief counseling, twelve
steps, etc.), and give them referrals to other sources of help.
- Remember Love.
It’s strange that we teachers who have devoted our lives to molding the
lives of another generation don’t often talk about loving our
students. I had to learn it in therapy, not in my education classes.
In the aftermath of a time of loss in my life, the therapist said, “You
need someone to love...to invest in. Who do you love?” I responded,
“My son.” He replied, “Yes, and you’re smothering the poor child. Love
your students!” I did, and my teaching will never be the same!
We have a motto in SCORE: "Every child deserves a pushy parent. If they don't have one, you're it!