Ask, Listen, Pause

from Luke Nichols’s flickr

Today was rough with a couple of my kiddos. Every year there are some kids it takes longer to build relationships with. Longer to convince them they can trust me. I know that. But I’m still struggling with these two. We’ve had lunch several times, just three kiddos and me. (I’ve done that now with all but one kid in my class and we’ll get to it this week.) I’ve worked to celebrate the positives. Both of these kids are whip smart, creative, fun kids. It isn’t hard for me to like them. But it does seem to be hard for me to like them at all times.

The morning went great with one and then the day fell apart after lunch. I can, with just enough time between me and the day, see how much of that was my fault. Not all. But definitely plenty.

I took my class to music at the end of the day and it was clear this student was going to be challenging there. I told the music teacher we’d had a rough afternoon and she asked for suggestions. I had nothing. No tips, no thoughts, no advice, totally blank. So instead, I had a chat with the child in the hall. I told this kid how I see them. How I see the brilliance, the creativity, the natural leadership. How strong I think this child’s character is. How much I really like this kid. I went on to tell them that I know they could be anything they want to be. A basketball star or president. An incredulous look showed up on this kid’s face. “Really?” “Really,” I answered. “No doubt in my mind.”

Then I did what I should have done earlier in the day. I asked, “What do you need to help you do your best in music?”

Immediately this student explained to me what they felt they needed. Within minutes we were able to get that rolling and send this student off to music in a completely different way than had been true ten minutes earlier.

I know that one of the things that made this possible was that the music teacher was working with the rest of my class. I could truly focus my attention on this one student. We could spend ten minutes talking and making a plan together. That’s a lot harder with twenty-two other students clamoring for attention or support.

I don’t know how tomorrow will go with this kiddo but I do know that when I greet them at the door it will be even more intentional than normal. It will be with a reminder of how I see them and how I believe in them. Some kids need to hear that a lot before they can really believe it. I don’t know if that’s true for this one or not, but I’m going to err on the side of overtelling them how amazing they are.

2 replies on “Ask, Listen, Pause”

  1. Gary Stager says:

    You can only ever teach one kid at a time. Everything else is a trick to distract the rest.

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