By Kim Blevins
Just take a breath….
There are certain things that just get under my skin in the classroom: disorder in the first minute or two of class, whining and the extremely intelligent precocious student seemingly out to prove something. This is the first year I have tried to stop and….breathe…. just breathe for a moment or two…and think- before I open my mouth and respond to these stimuli.
The disorder at the beginning of class- I am a Harry Wong aficionado- the beginning of class is important. I still believe this. However, I am learning, on occasion I can go with the flow and make conversation with the students. See what they are talking about. Laugh with them. Grab the natural silence that occurs and then teach, baby, teach. You are possibly wondering, well what did she do before? Well, I forced it, I may have raised my voice, may have said the dreaded, “Shut up.” I’m not sure but that may have happened. I like them to be seated and be quiet and be ready but sometimes that isn’t how it’s going to be. I’m now trying to consciously notice my breathing and slow it down. Then smile and head to the front of the room and laugh with them. It has worked so far. Inside I jump for joy and think, “This is magic!”
Whining- I have this visceral “Get away from me!” feeling when I hear that tone and message. This year, I breathe…and think…and say something pertinent. Here’s one I remember that happened recently. “These articles are stupid! I don’t need to know this stuff!” a student complained about our awesome Articles of the Week (thank you, Kelly Gallagher). I was angry but I breathed, in and out, let go of the anger, and said, “Well you guys are almost adults and you will be voting citizens very soon and it’s a good thing for you to be educated about the world.”
“I’m not going to vote,” he responded.
I could feel the class watching me, listening intently to see how I would respond. I calmly said that I’d rather he stay home and not vote if he were going to choose to be ignorant and sit on the couch scratching his belly. He smiled, the class smiled, and another student pounced on the speaker for his apathy and we moved on.
Last but not least, the challenge from the extremely intelligent student- I had just told them about the Shoes project. I had told them how it was everyone’s favorite the years before. I had bragged on how I had presented this idea to teachers in two different workshops. I had read an example and handed out the directions.
“Don’t you think this promotes teenage angst? Don’t we have enough of that?” the student challenged.
My mouth fell open and then I got mad. Then I wasn’t. I looked at her and thought and took a moment to breathe. I responded kindly and thoughtfully. I let go of my ego. I followed up later. She was already working on it. I found out later from her parents that she was excited about the assignment. Go figure!
It’s important for my students to see a good way to deal with anger. Not saying I will be able to do this every single hour of every single day. It’s an extremely stressful job and I’m human. But it makes my classroom environment better for the students and for me, Breathe, let go, and think- who’d of thunk?
Kim Blevins is a teacher-consultant with the Greater Kansas City Writing Project.
All Bullying Empowerment Failure Federal Mandates Guilt National Writing Project Novel Ozarks Writing Project Shoes Snooze Teachers Teaching Teaching Writing Technology Testing To Kill A Mockingbird Whining Writing