Different students, different dynamics

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I listened to a colleague vent yesterday. He is having regular problems with a group of students. I have a few problems with a couple of those kids, but not many. Another one who is receiving multiple referrals and write-ups from him has been working hard and doing very well in my classes. But I also have problems with a number of students who behave well for my colleague. Teaching is a relationship game and many of the variables are outside our control. If Luis does not get along with his mom, that relationship may transfer into trouble for other women. Sara’s mouthiness may drive the teacher in room 203 nuts while making the teacher in 204 laugh, often balancing out any trouble. Mike may hate social studies but like science or vice versa, transferring his feelings to the adult in front of the room. Some students respond well to stricter environments, but others work better under looser regimes. (Strict tends to work better academically, I believe, but that’s not true for all kids, especially those with attention deficit hyperactivity difficulties.)

Eduhonesty: One of the great challenges of this job is trying to understand and appreciate every child. A child who feels appreciated will work harder and more enthusiastically than one who does not. A child who feels understood is less likely to throw a wrench into the classroom works simply for the fun of it.

I threw this post into the “For parents” category because I see a need to bring out a couple of corollaries: A child who feels unappreciated will often work as little as possible. A child who feels misunderstood will often challenge authority. I could extend this list of troublesome behaviors, but I am following my gut to an important point: If your child says, “My teacher does not like me,” please follow up on this. Some kids should be moved into more supportive rooms. Administrations will resist, as will offended teachers, but 180 days of being made to feel unappreciated and misunderstood by an adult who controls your day can do a great deal of damage. At the very least, your child needs support and coping strategies if you can’t fix the problem.

Fortunately, this problem remains rare in my view. Teachers mostly enjoy their students. If they don’t, they don’t last in this profession.