(Originally posted 8/20/10)
The kids really need to be able to trust each other in our rooms. Getting to know each other really makes that easier when that process is guided by a trusted, caring and thoughtful teacher. Again…as in most of what we do, it’s not WHAT we do, but HOW we do it that makes the difference. Letting other kids “in” to their world creates an enormous minefield for many students…and some will not just balk, they will just shut down completely.Some thoughts…after reading these, knowing many of you and having worked very hard at this in my own room for long time….
a) The teacher needs to model EVERYTHING. We cannot take for granted that kids know how to get to know other people. The fact is ….they have little experience in this..very little. What do we need to model?
* the appropriate kind of information to share (short, detailed, but nothing that will make other people uncomfortable to know!!)
* the appropriate way to share it (w/o innuendos, sarcasm, self-deprecation)
*when to share it (in an activity or in order to connect w/someone else)
*how to listen w/caring and genuine interest when other people share
*how to respond to other people when they share
*how NOT to gossip about what has been shared (it may seem advantageous to share tidbits about students with other classes but it’s a trust-buster…)
*how to gently step in when the sharing is going the wrong direction
*how to ‘hook into” the information/feelings that have been shared so that it becomes part of the relationship within the class.The other thing that I think is really important here goes back to a post that Ben put up a few days ago. Students need to believe that it is safe enough in your room to create a “Spanish class” Persona in order to participate. Not all kids need one. Some kids wear one around every day.
Some kids are naturally too “transparent” to even know what one is. But you will have at least one, and probably several students, in each class that will need some support in making this happen.
A student who is struggling w/his or her sexual identity or preferences will be very cautious about sharing anything. These students have learned that the slightest reveal can set off feelings in themselves, or reactions in others that are hard to deal with.
A student who is dealing with being the object of abuse: emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual has been “trained” for a long time to not reveal, anything.
A shy student may be totally overwhelmed by receiving that much attention, even for a few minutes.
A new student, very aware of how quickly first impressions can carve out a social existence, may need to welcomed with great love and care.
A student with a “I don’t give a crap” persona (which of course we know is usually hiding a “I care too much or I can’t afford to care” attitude) needs to be given the leeway to share without totally surrendering that carefully crafted “I don’t give a crap” masterpiece.
I’ll be honest…I teach in a district where everyone “knows” everyone (at least they think that they do). It’s a fishbowl kind of a world and attitudes are set pretty early on. Every year, but particularly senior year, I begin the year with a clearly-stated goal of each student working with, accepting and hopefully getting to know the other kids in the class (not liking, this is not required)
I work, every day, in every activity, in every interaction towards this goal. And there are some groups that fight me all the way to the end because their need to control their world is so strong.Don’t give up. Every moment is another opportunity to build those bridges. If no one crosses them, so be it. Not only did you give them the opportunity to cross bridges, you gave them the opportunity to see them being built.
There will come a time in their lives when they need to build a bridge. It may not come in the time that you have them in class….in fact, it probably won’t. Just as our students “unconsciously” learn language, they “unconsciously” remember the doors you have opened and the bridges that you have built in front of them. If the need is strong enough, and other factors fall into place, every single thing that you did in class will have made a difference.
The easiest thing to do when trying to get a class to bond…is to try to get a class to bond. No can do. So when it doesn’t happen the way, or in the time frame, that you would like, try not to take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s about a bigger picture. Our job as teachers rarely allows us to step back and see the piece created. It is our job to get in there with the brush and to keep painting…hue after hue, layer by layer….so that the piece will indeed exist.
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