I usually give students the last few minutes of class to jot down their homework from the board, pack their bags, and ask me questions that don’t apply to the whole class. I’m sure you do the same.
Every day, there’s a rotating cluster of kids who need my individual attention, and their needs are varied. Student #1 needs me to sign a field trip form. Student #2 wants to clarify a point from the class discussion. Student #3 has a funny story to share about her uncle that is (sort of, not really) related to something I said in class. Student #4 wants to show me the Poe vs. Stephen King Epic Rap Battle he found on YouTube. Student #5 needs to make up a quizzer from when he was absent last week.
So today I give my fourth period the green light to pack up and the daily cluster of Kids Who Need Things rolls up to my desk. I quickly deal with Student #1 and am talking to Student #2 as #3, #4, and #5 patiently wait. Then – and here’s where the teeth-grinding begins – Student #6 walks up, cutting in front of the others and starts to ask his question while I’m talking to Student #2.
“Excuse me,” I say to Student #2 with a nod of apology, turning my attention to the interloper. “Student #6 (name withheld to protect the clueless), do you not see me talking to Student #2?”
“Yeah, but I have a question and I’m in a hurry.” I swear, this is exactly what this kid said to me. Now this was right before lunch and I know this young man was hoping to beat the food line, but still.
“Well, you are not the only or the most important person in the room. You need to wait your turn.” He fades to the side as I return my attention to #2.
I take my time with the others, lingering over their questions and laughing mightily at their mirth. Finally, #6 and I are left alone as everyone has run off to lunch.
“Now, how I can help you?” He asks his question (a clarification about the homework assignment that any classmate could’ve answered – sigh) and, as he returns to his desk to pack his bag, I just can’t help myself. “You know, I’m not mad at you, but I am frustrated. There’s a right way and a wrong way to try to get what you need from people.”
“Yeah, I know, Ms. R.,” he mumbles. As he leaves the room, a conciliatory “sorry” is tossed to me over his shoulder. It’s a start, I think.
Some days, teaching English seems like only a small part of this job because there’s so much our kids need to know that can’t be found in a book.
Okay – steam’s released. Let’s end on a fun and slightly school-inappropriate note (Thanks, T.L.):
Teach on, everyone!
(Four days ’til winter break, but who’s counting?)