This week we started our SFA/Reading Edge curriculum. Add in some tech issues and middle school students who aren't super jazzed about being in the breakout rooms and it was an interesting week. Fortunately my scholars have been really quite awesome and except for their hesitation with the breakout rooms, they have really taken all of the bumps in stride.
They are getting more used to the breakout rooms and it's interesting because some of the students have said they are really enjoying them now and some students are saying they hate them. The students who don't like them seem to be in groups where no one is talking. I will keep surveying and keep tabs on who is working and who isn't and when we switch up groups, the "non-talkers" will be together so everyone else gets the benefit of being in the group. I know in my heart the group work is really going to be the heart and soul of this program so I don't want to let it go, but I also don't want anyone to feel like they won't earn their points if their group isn't all participating.
I offered some 1:1 virtual meetings this week and several students took me up on them (and honestly some signed up and forgot to come back lol). It is really fun to even just spend 2-3 minutes with a student and see how they are doing. They have been really sweet and some kids are really letting me know where they are struggling. Of course the ones who really need to meet with me aren't, but I'll keep on it.
Someone told me today that they just don't care anymore. (This was an adult.) My first thought was "please stop teaching then." I get it that coming from teaching honors high schoolers to teaching 8th graders is a huge change....but if you don't care about the kids, they will know. I have kids confiding in me, asking me about things not even relevant to my content area and more. They ask me because I've already made it clear to them that I do care. It makes a difference.
A student whom I didn't have last year but who knows who I am because I pushed into his English class for one of my EL students is in my class. I know for a fact that his English teacher last year doesn't like him. She didn't try to hide it. If I could tell, you better believe he could tell. He didn't come to class the first week and I was really worried. But then he showed up last week. I made a point of saying how happy I was to see him in class and left it alone. As this week went on, he kept coming back and while he didn't say much or participate as much as I would have liked at first...each day he did a little more. Today I got him to actually turn on his microphone and provide an answer to the class. It made me so happy!
What makes this story so amazing in my eyes is we were clarifying if our class answer was right. He kind of hesitated and said he felt like it might be right but that it could also maybe use more. I said "so are you unsure if we need to add more?" and he said "yes." I couldn't have planned it better if I had tried, because it gave me an opportunity to remind everyone that it is 100000% OKAY to not be totally sure yet. That's why we are here and that's why you have me.
Building relationships is something I strive to do. And you better believe it is paying off in spades. One of my ELs from last year told me this summer (before we knew we would be virtual) that he didn't think he needed my support anymore. I said that was cool but that I'd always be there if he needed me. And low and behold, today he asked me if it was too late to be transferred back to my class. Oh my heart.
I told him that because I'm in a dual role this year and we are virtual right now, I don't have the EL class like I did last year but that he is welcome to come to tutoring and I'll help him. He even jumped on Zoom with me today and we had a really nice chat. He said he is going to try his best to catch up in his classes but he promised to reach out to me again if he needs my help.
That relationship has been built over the last year. I really strove to get to know my students and I constantly reach out to them to let them know I'm still around. It makes such a difference! Having a reluctant student realize I do care about him allowed him to answer a question in class even though he wasn't sure and a second student to realize he can swallow his pride and admit he needs some extra support.
I have long felt like God has guided me to where he wanted me to be. I spent more years than I should have in my old district because I felt compelled to be there. But now, however, I know I am right where I am needed. These kids need and deserve someone who will love them and make them each think that they are my favorites. I'm convinced that 8th graders are really just big kindergartners at heart. They want to be accepted and acknowledged. If I can provide that, so be it.