Come a little closer…

What is the difference between a teacher who gets to know their kids, and one who keeps their distance?

Do you think you would treat you kids differently if they got to know you better?

Would they respond differently to you if your relationship with them was stronger?  If they were closer to you?

If you had to speak to a kid how would the conversation be different if they were next to you, instead of across the classroom?

A couple of weeks ago I came to school a bit crabby.  I wasn’t happy with some of the kids and their work on an assignment we had just done…and I was in a blame them mood.  I rattled off a list of kids that I wanted to meet with “after class.”  At the end of the period most of the class left and those on the list remained at their seats.  Out of the bowels of my old teacher self came all sorts of threats, what are you all thinking, and this is not how you want to continue in this class sort of comments.  I felt strong afterwards for being that demanding teacher who did not let them slide. I had won, they left defeated. Whu ha ha…

Then the second period class came in.  I started off the same way, I rattled off a list of names.  Proceeded with class.  Class ended, and most of the class filed out and only the kids who I named were left behind…but they were not in their seats.  Without any prompting on my part they left their seats and came up right up close and stood in front of me, and on the sides…I was nearly surrounded.  They were too close for the heavy artillery.  My heavy duty comments and yelling were long distance weapons, to be used when I was in power in the front of the room, and when they were in their seats…where they belong.  Now they were close, they had cornered me in a corner of the room in neutral territory.  This was too close for any of the heavy duty weapons in my arsenal, I had to shift to winning hearts and minds.  I spoke softly, was supportive, developed plans to assist them, and tried to give them what they needed to be successful…options that I missed the first time.  There were even…smiles.

After the second class left, I didn’t feel powerful….but I felt successful.  I had “won”…and so had they.

Too often we take a stand in the front middle of the class, and let kids have it.  We are in the position of power.  Us against them.  They need to listen to us.  They need to follow our rules.  They need to do our work.

Shift the power next time.  Sit down next to “that” kid and see how the conversation changes…make it a conversation instead of a lecture full of coercive threats.  Try taking on the “kid” by leveling the field instead of finding ways to employ more heavy artillery.

Two things that I have done to level the playing field is to ask a kid to come back with a few of their friends.  It changes the conversation and my tact immensely. the other thing that I have done is to walk over to our stair well to talk to a kid.  I walk down a few stairs and then turn to talk to them.  This puts me eye-to-eye, or sometimes it puts me below them–I have to look up.  Even if you need to talk to an entire class at once, pull up a chair.  Sit down.  You will be amazed at how the tone of your entire conversation with them changes.

5 Comments

on “Come a little closer…
5 Comments on “Come a little closer…
  1. @ Paul
    Interesting stuff Paul. I love the honesty of your posts and how easy it is for you to cut right to the core of how the power dynamic impacts teaching and learning. I wish my boys had you in class.

  2. Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes we get so caught up in getting things done, or moving through curriculum that we forget that we are simply dealing with children, and they have feels, and expectations, and need to be treated with tenderness and respect.

    We all need to be reminded of this everyday, before we enter the classroom. Thank you for doing that for me.

    PS: I love raw honesty and accessibility of your blogs. I am glad I found you and your work.

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