(Originally posted 9/30/14)
These past few weeks have been difficult. We are struggling with how the new pre-assessments required by our district have affected our relationships with our students. It has been soul-sucking to say the least. We work so hard in the first few weeks in our department to create and maintain an environment of welcoming, trust, companionship and caring. Then we have to take an entire week to test our students, with a test that we had not seen, on material we, and they, knew that they did not know using skills that we, and they, knew that they had not yet developed.
Our students rose to the occasion beautifully. But it was still heart-breaking. I would say more, but I still don’t trust my emotions enough to put it on the blog.
Our goal this week was to disregard whatever “curriculum” plans we had in mind, and focus the entire week on activities and interactions that re-established an environment of success and trust. (my colleagues are amazing, by the way) Then I was out sick for two days! I feel like it has been an uphill road to get (back) to where I wanted to be three weeks ago.
As always, it is the students that lift us up. I’ll share “Brian”‘s story with you this morning. Brian is a senior and this is his second year as my student. I know his family very well professionally and personally, but I didn’t feel that Brian and I had much of a connection. He is extremely bright, and extremely quiet. It has always been hard to get a response from Brian, in or out of class. I have never really known if he is shy, withdrawn, non-communicative, anxious, socially awkward or if I just don’t register on his scale of “things important enough for a 16 year old to get involved with.”
(I don’t take that personally, many times I was so involved in my own world at 16 that I couldn’t have cared LESS about my high school teachers!!!) If I asked Brian a question, I would get, after a long pause, a one or two word answer at best.
One day last spring, after class had ended, Brian walked over to my desk and said, “I’d like to know more about colleges that teach languages. I think that I would like to become an interpreter. I really like this class.” From a student who rarely smiled, much less answered. He left the room so quickly that I didn’t even put together a response!! And that was the end of our communication for the year.
On Friday, Brian came to my room at the beginning of one of my planning periods and asked for a pass to come in. He said that he had no friends in his Sr. Lounge that period and that he got bored.I gave him a pass, he came back, started talking and didn’t stop for 35 minutes!!!!!!!
The conversation started when he asked if I had ever heard of “vocaloids”. (I hadn’t) and asked if he could show me an example of some songs that he really liked on youtube. (like this one)
He said that this song really put into words how he had been feeling about the world for a long time and that it taught him that he had created a very small, protected, but unhappy world of his own to live in. It was a dark place and he thought about leaving the world to escape it. He realized that if were strong enough mentally and emotionally to do that then he also had the strength to step out of it and look for happiness and purpose.
How does one respond to that?
What an incredible young man. What a gift on a dark day, in a dark week.
His message to me was that he didn’t give up. And he wanted me to know that. Having been there myself at his age, and numerous times after that, I was humbled and honored.
That is what four years of departmental support and safety can bring to a child. I am his third Spanish teacher. The two that he had before me had created a safe path for him to be on. He trusted me as he trusted them. Some people need years before the feeling of safety allow them to step out verbally into the world. Input before output. Not just of language, but of trust, confidence and self-acceptance.
Before he left for his next class Brian said to me, ” I appreciate that I can be myself and that you are interested. It feels good to know that. We can talk about what matters in this class and you will listen.” From a boy who only two days ago started to speak….
There are Brians in every class. Just know this. Because you many not see the connection does not mean that language acquisition and personal development are not occurring. Trust me, it’s happening.
I was just lucky enough this week that Brian shared his light with me.
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