Friday, September 09, 2005

Seeing them again for the first time...

Whatever complaints I might have had about Confratute, I will say this for it: It has allowed me to see my students through new eyes. I've never been one to see only the bad in a kid, but I look at kids that I had problems with last year and I see those problems as quite possibly symptomatic of a lot of good things. Maybe it was Confratute, or maybe it's just the stage I'm at in my teaching; after all, it was one of my goals since long before the summer to begin to see my students more clearly as individual learners, to begin to be able to get at the root of their difficulties and to capitalize better on their strengths.

Yesterday I described one of my seventh grade students - attention-seeking, full-of-questions, adorable, exhausting. Today, more of the same. "What's this rock? Why is it reddish? Where do meteorites come from?" This from 5 minutes of free time with the textbook after he finished his diagnostic test. I told him a bit about my geology field trip this summer. I kept my sense of humor, and most of my interactions with him were in response to his science-related questions rather than his attempts to bother the children around him. Unfortunately, he got in trouble with the AP at lunchtime - I'm not sure why - and therein lies the danger. He takes a ton of patience, a good sense of humor, and a lot of time. None of us can provide that ALL the time (sainthood would await that person), and one or two of us rarely can provide that. But once he starts getting in trouble for his legitimately disruptive behaviors, we establish a pattern of conflict that is likely to worsen and spread.

After school, he was hanging out since his mother is our parent coordinator. I invited him into my room and showed him the rocks that I collected at Mt. Shasta. He got to handle real pieces of obsidian, which he's seen in the textbook, and pumice, and we talked about the lava tube and how it formed. Mr. Richter came in and joined the conversation. I showed the student three rocks which I collected which are similar in texture, density, etc., but three different colors, and asked him why he thought that might be. "Different chemicals?" he asked. I slapped him five. The kid is brilliant, a budding volcanologist, a question a minute. He so proudly showed off his new knowledge to his mom when she came to take him home.

Last year, I liked him but saw more of his disruptive side than his inquisitive side. This year, I'm asking myself, is this one of our "gifted underachievers" -??? It's not the label that matters, to be sure, it's the new insight, the idea that I need to find fascinating things to keep his mind working... wow. Exasperating, but brilliant. What an exhilarating challenge.

And he's just one of so many students that I am seeing again, differently.

*****

And yes, I am at home, blogging, on a Saturday Friday (geez, maybe there's permanent damage...!) night. But for the record, I'm doing this for my health. And we had a happy hour after work, so I get a little social credit. And I feel much better, thank you, although I will probably have a hacking cough until mid-November.

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