I was thinking about a phone call that I had last night where a parent was concerned that I was picking on their child. I spent a ton of time justifying my actions and telling myself that the student was seeing bullying where none existed.
Then I remembered that it doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter if I'm nice or mean, cruel or kind. The reality of the classroom doesn't matter nearly as much as how our students perceive it.
It doesn't matter if I'm picking on this child or not. If they feel as though I am, it's something that I need to address and be aware of.
While I was thinking about it, another student finished her test and expressed some of her concerns about the class. Her unease, in a gross oversimplication on my part, comes from the fact that she feels she isn't learning. My teaching style is not what she is used to and she would like us to cover more content.
|So we had a talk.|
I asked her flat out if she would prefer for me to lecture, give formulae and practice problems, then go over them and move on. She said yes.
I explained to her that it would never happen. That's simply not the kind of teacher I am and it's not the kind of instruction that I know is effective. We had a very nice and civil discussion about my goals in the class and how I am working to accomplish those goals.
I told her that I know that what I'm doing is outside of her comfort zone and I completely understand that it makes her nervous. I told her that just because I wasn't doing skill & drill doesn't mean that I wouldn't answer whatever questions she had.
She said that she felt she didn't understand any of the material and that she thought she failed the test. I asked her for specifics and she mentioned a type of problem that we talked about yesterday. I asked if I had answered her questions and she said yes, but that she still didn't understand.
Then I graded her test.
She earned an A.
I asked her, with no sarcasm and with all sincerity, if that afforded me and my methods a little bit of trust and latitude. She said that it did. I told her that I would, under no conditions, allow her to fail my class, but if I let her only work with methods and problems that were easy, she would never grow. She agreed, at least at the time.
I know that what I do in my class can be scary to students who have learned very well to play school.
I think that I have built enough trust with most of my students that they will come with me on this insane journey.
But there are still more to convince.