Friday, November 9, 2012

Sometimes, it's Ok to Lie.

It was early in my teaching career.

Photo Credit: Evan-Amos as a
part of Vanamo Media

A student with some severe social, emotional, and anger issues was moved into my class after some trouble with another teacher. It wasn't the teacher's fault, but the student seemed to like her a little too much, and after he started petting her arm, the move was made. Although he has reached adulthood by now, let's call him Brian.

When I was told of the schedule change, I was understandably nervous, although I didn't let it show. Brian was notoriously known by every staff member (and probably most students). I was still a relatively inexperienced teacher, although at that time, I didn't realize how inexperienced I was. Still, I had an idea. When Brian came in, I decided to give it a try.

"Hi, are you joining the class today?"
"Great! What school are you coming from?"

With that, Brian stopped. He looked at me like I was out of my mind.
"This isn't my new school. I go here."
"Oh yeah, that's right. Anyway, I'm glad you're here. Why don't you take a seat right there and I'll be over to talk to you in a minute."

Brian walked over and took his seat, making about five students uncomfortable in the process. After getting the class going, I went over to make sure everything was going ok.

"Hey, so how is your first day going so far? I know it can be hard to change schools."
"This isn't my first day - I told you already."
"Oh, yeah. I'm sorry. Anyway, is this seat ok for you?"

I repeated this one or two more times over the course of the next 40 minutes, stopping short of pushing Brian over the edge. At the end of the period, I asked Brian to stay after class for a minute and decided to take one last risk.

"I just wanted to let you know how well you did today. I know how hard it can be to switch schools."
"I've BEEN at the school all year." A little tense.
"Oh yeah, I'm sorry. I keep forgetting. Anyway, I'd like to call your house and let your parents know how well you did. Is that ok?"

And with that, I won Brian over. He came in the next day, and asked if I could call his house again. I told him I'd be happy to call when I had a good reason to. I honestly don't remember if I ever called again. Now, I'm not saying that Brian behaved perfectly in my class, because he didn't. But I can say that I can't remember a single incident in particular, and he was with me for the rest of the year.

My point is this: As a middle school teacher, students should not see you as their friend. It is, however, imperative that they think you like them, and hopefully you do, as building relationships with students is the name of the game. My interactions with Brian gave him a chance to make a fresh start with a teacher who appeared to be happy to have him in class. During the middle school years, kids are acutely aware and impacted by what they believe others think of them

Sometimes, it's ok to lie.
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  1. I like this post- and agree. Sometimes dealing with middle schoolers requires a different approach!

  2. So true I have two teenagers and it is very important that they think the teacher or coach like them. Even if they don't like the class subject as long as they think they are liked they don't mind going.

    Love your blog!

    1. Interesting to hear it from the parent perspective, Reading Buddies. Thanks for reading and following!