Don’t write off your bad student

troubled student

We all have at least one trouble kid. Secretly, we might wish him out of the class (“maybe his family will move…”). Privately, we might enjoy sending him to the principal’s office (“now I’ll be able to teach!”).

But while the kid disrupts others’ learning, do we take the time to consider the needs of this bad boy/girl? Do we speak harshly to this person?

Maybe the reason why he/she is a class clown is because he/she is hurting. Maybe there’s no love at home. Or maybe abuse.

Are we so insensitive as to pile more abuse on top of the other abuse?

Yeah, I know. We get frustrated with the one student who is blocking the education of the many. We would rather just wash our hands of him/her and forget it.

But teachers do much more than just prepare students for standardized tests. And teachers need to focus much more than just helping your school to score higher on average so as to get more state money, or get that pay raise by scoring highly on average. We have to think about helping kids to NOT become criminals. We have to think about helping kids discover that they ARE valuable and that they DO have talents and that they CAN make an honest living performing a valuable function. You may not get a pay raise, but you are making a difference in what truly matters.

Self-esteem is not…

self esteemBuilding self-esteem is NOT about creating false expectations that the world will be easy.

It IS about showing kids that they have talents and can please people.

Building self-esteem is NOT about cultivating self-centered kids who expect the world to bow to them.

It IS about healing children’s hearts that have been broken by broken families.

Self-esteem is NOT about deluded them about competition and making them think they will win without effort, discipline and vision.

It IS about fostering effort, discipline and vision in people who have none.

Self-esteem is NOT about flattery or false praise.

It IS about finding positives in a world accustomed to negatives.

I’m a believer in self-esteem building. My close friend came from a very broken home. I can’t print the words he used to describe his parents. He had an old school teacher who ran his classroom like a dictatorship. As much of a jerk as he was, the teacher left my friend with a golden nugget. At the end of the semester he said. “It’s too bad you waste so much talent.”

My friend’s take-away? For the first time in his life, he got the notion that he was good at something. He possessed “so much talent.”

This prompted him to try to get into an advanced writing class, to which he was admitted. Ultimately he went to college, the first in his extended family to do so.

That is what self-esteem building is about.

The back story

rebellious student

The student who is rebellious, distant, not engaged… The student who fools around, doesn’t care, distracts others… The student who’s always on his phone and never brings a pen and paper… That student has a back story of pain.

Now we can justify ourselves for cracking down on him, bemoaning him, wishing he weren’t there because he ruins the rest.

Or we can try to find out the background. Did his parents just divorce? Was he bullied last year? Did he get beaten up?

If you can help kids quantify and deal with pain, you can give them tools to succeed in life. Teachers are more than relaters of information or preparers for standardized tests. Teachers are helpers of humans.

Never underestimate the value of your work. Your troubled kids may not score highest on the standardized test. But if you help them to not be a drug addict, you have not failed the system. You are a success and should feel proud of yourself.

His behavior comes from his hurt, not any malice towards you.

Bearer of bad news

teacher giving bad news to parents

I hate notifying parents of deficiencies of my students. I hate scheduling parent-teacher conferences.

In antiquity, the bearer of bad news was often killed. Sometimes parents accuse you as a teacher, and you have to document everything — this is not teaching! It is gathering evidence, police work, deputy district attorney work! I loathe adversarial relations with parents.

Sometimes, the parents turn red in the face and fire on the child. I don’t like this any better. I feel for the kid. Rarely does a parent find the right balance.

I’d much rather give good news. I love to see positives in the kids, to see parents glow as I extoll their son/daughter. How do you deal with being the bearer of bad news?

Thinking more important than electronics

thinking over electronics

While school boards strive to put electronic devices into the hands of every kids, tech execs strictly limit their own children’s online time. Steve Jobs didn’t even let his kids play with the then-new iPads. Former editor of Wired, Chris Anderson told the New York Times: “My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules. That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”

Instead, tech CEO’s get their kids library cards.

Looks like a good book does more to unleash the child’s mind. While most parents worry if their children are technologically savvy enough to be on the cutting edge of jobs in the future, the electronics gurus want their children to learn to think, to reason and to dream.

There’s a powerful lesson.

The culture of each class

good studentsEach class has its own culture. Not always do the rebels, or the clowns, lead. Sometimes, you luck out. The majority want to learn, enjoy your lessons, praise you on teacher reviews, and prove your worth on standardized tests.

I wish all my classes were optimal.

The leaders pull along with the rest with a positive energy. The sloth gets motivated to study. The jabbermouth shuts up and listens. The clown, instead of throwing the class into disarray, shapes up.

In my experience, there isn’t much you can do to form the culture of the class. I’ve had groups that fought me tooth and nail and refused to learn. I’ve had students who have excelled and made me proud. What’s your experience?

Blessings and difficulties of running private schools

non-prophetPrivate schools don’t have to follow the politician’s whim. They don’t have to constantly “reform” education. They don’t have to crowd their rooms and pass through dropouts.

But private schools struggle financially. They don’t have public funds. They often operate on very small properties and pay their teachers a miserable wage. Despite these limitations, they accomplish great things.

What are blessings and difficulties you have found with non-profit schools?