I Tried This, I Felt Better, and My Student Showed Me Respect

Scrolling through Instagram the other night I saw this post from TeachersConnect that made me pause:

I don’t know about you but I have like, 20 students who I need to try this with, but one in particular came to mind immediately. I bet the same’s true for you. Because it’s April and we’ve tried everything and we are so tired of trying to be creative. And then we feel guilty for not trying to be more creative. And so on…

This student and I haven’t had a great year. We just can’t seem to mesh or even co-exist in a space for very long before my blood pressure rises and he’s telling me to “cool it, bruh.”

(If you’re thinking: “Omg, why would you allow a student to talk to you that way!? I would never.” I’ll talk more about this in another post at another time.)

Although he’s never told me to “f— off”, he’s told many of his peers to in front of me, and for some weird reason that feels worse. I’ve tried talking to him about his homophobic, racist, sexist “jokes”, his disregard for our classroom space in general, and have struggled so hard with the most impenetrable force field of defiance.

Every day has been a battle of some size. So, I knew this was something I needed to try.

So during class Monday, right after he chucked a pencil at someone, I literally turned on my heel, went up to him, and asked how his dad was doing. I think he was confused at first, but he didn’t shut me down. So I inched on a little bit, tossing out crumbs of info I know about his father–he works in construction in the area. And two shockingly wonderful things happened:

I saw my student as a kid and I think he felt like a kid.

I’m hugely, majorly into helping kids grow into themselves, but it was like he was happy he’d been let off the hook and could just talk about his dad and his job. The conversation truly was about two minutes long, but it made me relax my shoulders and breathe when I walked away from him.

I felt like I’d wiped a very, very foggy window clean and saw him.

I don’t want to be cliche and say that it’s never too late to establish or repair a relationship because I know that’s much easier said than done and so many of us go out of our way every single day to do just that.

And we’re tired.

But this student did come to my door today and did greet me with respect, which he has never done before. We even bantered about my lame lunch. And then he took a phone call and left the room. Nothing’s perfect and navigating relationships with teenagers is like off-roading, but it still felt like something was more right than wrong.

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