Day 27: Let Go In Order To Grow
Prompt: How to Build a More Powerful Classroom by Letting Go
On Friday, my most difficult class of 9th graders came into class and one young woman was all fired up. She was going to get into it with a young man. The tension was palpable. As they began trading barbs, I stepped in and asked the young woman to walk down to our social work office to cool down and check in with someone there. I knew she would be pissed at me. I had to let that go. Kids get over things. What I couldn't let go was what it would mean if the two kids got into a fight in my classroom and one or both got suspended... on a Friday. So, the student grabbed her things, and headed out ready to work independently for the period. Class went on as planned and I had a surprise informal observation, of course! Isn't that always the way. Letting go...
Being a good teacher is often about picking moments to dig in and moments to step aside and let something else run a course. Some classes are so fantastic at things like leading conversations, accountable talk, project based learning. Others need lots of hand holding, micro managing, sentence starters, and guided notes. No matter what the group, I eventually need to get out of their way and let them lead, learn, grow. It's not my job to control or manage each moment of each day. School is organic and amazing things can happen when I get out of MY own way.
This morning, I stopped by Guidance and that very student who had to step out to avoid the fight was sitting there. I didn't know if something else had happened, but either way-she was not in class. She was sitting with two of our Social Work interns so I pulled up a chair next to her, not before catching that daggers she shot at me with her eyes when I came in the room. I spent a few minutes talking with her, asking questions like that would eventually lead us through a dialogue about why teachers have to make choices like the one I did on Friday in order to protect our students and that I watched the boy pushing her just to get a response because he knows she has a short fuse. I also asked her about the work she did, questions she had and asked her to come in for tutoring tomorrow after school and that was that.
I few minutes later I got an email from one of the interns who had been sitting at the table:
You are the only teacher that comes in and talks with students like that and it's amazing. It's so hard to tell the kids they had to leave cause the teacher cares [about them] when the teacher's not there. I greatly appreciate your being.
Over the years, I have learned to let go, to get out of the way and grow with my students with each choice we make. I could have easily not gone to talk with the student and she would have come into my class this Thursday, still mad and not understanding my decision and seeing it as a punishment. But I didn't and we both grow as a result.