There are certain situations in life that are an automatic reaction. Red light, stop. Phone rings, answer it. Troy Aikman on TV, stop and watch. As an educator, I wish there was a way to turn off our “automatic” mode. One of the bigger moments in my back to school world as a teacher came the day we got our class lists. My very themed, very coordinated, name tags would finally be complete. I could wrap up that same coordinating bulletin board. As an administrator, one of the biggest headaches came the day we handed out class lists. The ooo’s, the ahhh’s, the groans were inevitable. It absolutely made my heart sad to hear the “automatic” reaction to seeing certain names on their lists. Conversations amongst teachers about how they handled certain families, or overcame certain behavioral quirks…you know what I am talking about.
It’s not that I didn’t do the same thing…it’s now I just wish every kid could start every year without the baggage that they may be dragging along with them. I loved starting over every year, don’t you think our students do too?
Two things reaffirmed my thoughts on being in “auto” mode. I love to read over the summer and can actually get in about a book a day, especially if MT isn’t around. 😉 One of the young adult novels I read was “Living Dead Girl” by Elizabeth Scott. If you ever want a reality check of the horrible possibilities in this world, read this book. Over and over, this poor girl was “seen” and “not seen” all at the same time…based on how she looked and people’s automatic thoughts of her. There are students in our classes who are living a life we couldn’t imagine or handle, but we sometimes we get mad because they didn’t turn in homework or get their folder signed. I don’t know that I’ll be able to look at a student or family the same based on this book again for awhile, if ever. It was that powerful.
The second reaffirming moment came while listening to the EduAllStar podcast, featuring Jeremy McDonald, aka @mrmacnology. He told a story about a situation that happened in his fifth grade class with a student and what happened when he had an “automatic” reaction. I challenge you to watch this and NOT tear up. (It’s a powerful 5 minutes.)
The point of the story is that sometimes people, especially our students, need us to ignore that automatic reaction…and be the unexpected. Can you?