Trust, Kindness and Relationships

posted Oct 9, 2014, 3:39 PM by Kevin Roughton
The first six weeks of this year were really, really hard. Taking on a new subject and wanting to make sure it is up to "Roughton" standards every day is exhausting. Most of my 8th graders had me for 7th last year so I don't want to let them down by providing anything less than the very best. That coupled with non-classroom issues that are ongoing has left me deflated.  After four student counseling sessions in 3 days with kids feeling left out and just generally not happy I knew I had to fix things. I had lost sight of the most important things in teaching middle school: kindness, trust and relationships. I was reminded of it on my birthday when my kids poured out tons of love on me all day. I needed to be doing that for them too.

So, my AVID class started a kindness challenge that I'll probably write about soon that immediately put me in a better place. I put myself into the challenge as well and I've felt great. I'm again excited to come to work every day just to see what they will do to one-up each other. 

I also (finally) started reading over their autobiographies they wrote 3 weeks ago and was reminded that each of my students is a real person with a real life and real challenges. They are not just a body in a seat waiting to suck in my knowledge. 

Doing this has reopened our communication and reminded me of the importance of my relationship with my students. The fact is, *I* determine the mood and flow of my classroom. I'm not a "guide on the side" I'm a full blown Master of Ceremonies in my room and that's how it should be. My poor middle schoolers are a jumbled mess of emotions every single day. The least I can do is be a stable, friendly influence in their lives. 

This realigned outlook has allowed me work just as hard this week than any other and yet not be the least bit tired. It allowed me to perform 2 completely different simulations (each with an outfit change!) in the same day and still be ready to come back for more the next day. I've also been reminded to trust my students. They are wonderful kids. I've had my AVID kids for 2 periods a day for over a year now. I need to trust them to make the class great and not worry about the burden all myself.  Today they started a new project where they are making museum displays about the Constitution. This would be a hard task for a college student to take on and I've got my kids doing it. Within 10 minutes I had kids on the floor, kids holding posters up to walls, and kids using their phones to try to figure out what the heck emolument could possibly mean. 

It all kind of hit me in a moment of clarity: I never told them to do anything of that. I gave them very basic instructions and told them to make it happen. I never said they could leave their seats and they never really asked. They just did it. 

And the world didn't end

By giving up a little control and trusting them to do right they found the locations and materials they needed to make it work. By treating them like real people they responded like real people. I could have freaked out and ordered them back to their desks (and last week I just might have) but to what end? A little more order? Is that why I come to work? Of course not. I come here to make meaningful connections with my students. When that happens I can be safe letting them do what works for them - even if I hadn't planned it that way. Kindness, trust and relationships - that's what makes this craziness all work!

I highly recommend all three (especially if you're feeling wiped out.)
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