Teachers, Let's Slow Down and Teach

Institutional bullying is alive and well.  I learned just how alive and well it is during my recent Student-Led Conferences from a kid who is quiet, reserved, respectful and who has a beautiful mind, but who is not a typical learner.  He is a dreamer; his thoughts are triggered by something going on in the classroom, then he floats away inside himself to dream up fantastic stories of....who knows what. 

This student has been traumatized from his previous school experience.  The teachers yelled at him when he did not have his homework.  The teachers sent him out into the hall when he did not finish his work when everyone else was finished.  The teachers made him think that he was a bad person because he was unsure of what he was supposed to be doing during a class activity. 

This child has been trained to be afraid of teachers; this child has been trained to avoid asking for help from teachers; this child has been trained to become invisible. This child's spirit has shriveled and gone into hiding, but not because he was bullied by his peers.  This child has been bullied, year after year, by his teachers.  How does this happen?  How does a teacher, (much less several?) who went into the profession to teach kids, how does a teacher end up ignoring the needs of a kid like this, and participate in bullying him, day after day after day?  How does this happen? 

I have been teaching this child for six weeks.  It took some time for me to figure out that this student needs a bit of extra help maintaining focus, but I recognized immediately that he had a beautiful mind.  He never asked for help; I went to him to model good habits: note-taking, writing down homework, good organization. He has begun to blossom because he is beginning to enjoy coming to school; he is starting to not be afraid of school. The damage is deep, though, so it might take a lot more time for him to be completely happy.

Teachers need to be flexible, need to recognize when a student needs help and is not just being difficult.  If we slow down, for just a moment, to notice and appreciate the wonderful talents of each kid, then we will not miss those important signs that a child needs our help, not our scolding.

Students do not come in a ready-to-teach mold; each child is different so we must approach each one differently to reach them all.  Be patient, be caring.  Teaching is not efficient and it's not easy; teachers who want that need to do something else.


Hi there, just wanted to say, I loved this article. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

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