Recognize your Power
As I was covering a fifth-grade class on Friday, one student, “Mark,” sat in his seat with a sullen expression, refusing to do work. He asked if he could go and work in the resource teachers’ room. I said, “Of course.” but she was not in her room. I then had to convince him to come back into the room. Could you imagine a kid going missing on my watch?
I promised ‘Mark” he could sit where he wanted as long as the people at the table could remain focused.
I promised him he would not have to do any math work (I know).
I asked him if he would please reconsider joining us.
He RELUCTANTLY agreed.
He decided to sit by himself. He did not do any work, but about 10 minutes in, after watching the other kids joyfully working, he asked if he could join a group of students. I responded, “Of course!” He then asked if he could work on what they were working on. I said, “Of course!”
He then willingly completed two out of twenty problems. (We are deep into fluency practice at this point in the year).
I then encouraged him to try five more problems. He willingly did. He made some mistakes; I helped him correct them.
I praised him for his efforts. His face transformed. He has the most beautiful smile.
This sullen child, who felt out of place and would not participate, had a moment of hope and joy.
This child has had a long history of being unsuccessful in the mathematics classroom and feels powerless. He, therefore, engages in negative behaviors to empower himself and gain some control over his life. He needs to feel empowered.
I knew he would feel safe enough to try if I gave him options and space. I knew that if I encouraged even the tiniest of efforts, he would develop more confidence and be willing to try again.
We are not just here to teach reading, writing, and math. We can be here to instill confidence, model patience, and give students a little faith in themselves.