This is the eighteenth part of my Reflection Series for 2017 – a self-reflection of my teaching this year.
In what ways did you change the lives of your students this year?
I wonder if a lot of teachers out there would jump straight to academic outcomes when thinking about their successes over the past year.
As mentioned in a previous post, I know I changed the attitudes of some of my year 9 math boys. They ended the year in a better frame of mind about their own math abilities, the fact that it is ok to be good at it, and how to accept and give help. I hope this change will carry through with them, because that really could change their lives – not just in an academic sense, but also in a self-belief sense.
I know I kept at least one student in particular in school and off the streets. He would regularly skip school, or get himself kicked out of classes so he didn’t have to do any work. But quite a few times he explicitly told me he came to school for that day, or sometimes just that lesson, because he wanted to be there for my class. Not that he was a star pupil in my classes, or that he even tried particularity hard at any point, but the fact that he was physically present meant so much.
I had worked really hard on building a good rapport with him and his friends in that class (who, thankfully, weren’t as into skipping class as he was). This was another group of students with extremely low self-esteem, poor home lives, and always getting into trouble at school. To help deal with this, I simply refused to kick them out of class. I figured if I denied what they wanted, they might unconsciously learn something while staying in the lesson, and it would give me a chance to help them without looking like I was helping them (except those times where I clearly was helping them, like giving them food at lunch because they didn’t have any and hadn’t eaten that day). A few of them did lift their grades by the end of the year, but more importantly than that they grew to enjoy science as a topic. I hope they decide to stay in school for 2018.