Today I had the chance to teach English to my Grade 4/5 class focusing on comprehension. I read them the story “The Three Questions”, based on characteristics of a good person and identifying questions that arise when being encountered with a situation to help someone. To begin my lesson I asked the students who found themselves to be a good person right now or who would like to become a good person as they grow up. Many hand shot in the air, so I asked them individually what supposedly made them a good person or what you could do to make yourself be a good person. Positive words such as kindness, generous, caring, helpful were being suggested, so then I asked what questions we might face while trying to be a kind person. “Should I help them? Who should I help? When should I help someone?” were the most common responses. I then read the story to them as the main character asks three questions that are very similar to the few shouted out by my students.
For their assignment I had asked each of them to complete a worksheet to practice comprehension and inference, five questions only. I knew in the back of my head prior to the assignment that there were a handful of kids who would rarely participate in discussion so I assumed little feedback on their sheets. To my surprise, the three boys who are constantly misbehaving were some of the best behaved kids I worked with today. Reading their answers to how they feel when they help someone and what makes you a good person in their eyes were outstanding. They perform like the class clown all throughout the day; some kids are semi bullied by them as they get rude, loud and rowdy quite often. Because of my label of ‘class clown’ that I have already stuck on them, I expected rude responses or jokes. Another two students I have are very quiet and always say “I don’t know” if they’re asked a question. Again, I assumed little feedback from them as well. To my absolute shocking surprise, those five wrote the best answers when inferring the lesson I had taught them. We discussed who the most important person would be, when the most important time was to help someone and what the most important thing to do was. When asked to reflect on a time in their lives that they helped someone and to state who, when and what for that situation, one boy actually wrote “Today when Ms. Stein was reading to us, she was the most important person, the most important thing for me to do was to listen to her and give her my attention and the most important time was right now”.
Knowing who my learners actually are and what they are capable of really opened my eyes. I am kicking myself in the butt for assuming their achievement levels based on their attitudes and behaviors, because I was definitely proved wrong today. One of the quietest students who never speaks a word when asked a question easily wrote the most for each of his responses. I actually like to think I have built a relationship with these students in our own ways, aside from how they are treated by their permanent teacher Ms. Whaley. Yes, I use classroom management, but I do not yell at them. I sternly ask them to return to their seats or to please be quiet, and as soon as they do behave well I encourage it and make sure to say thank you. I was worried for working with the ones who constantly were misbehaving, but I’m starting to notice the more respect and patience I give them, the more I am gaining in return. There was hardly a peep between any of them when I asked them to complete the assignment, which was so shocking to me (but made me feel successful at the same time).
I’m continuing to learn who MY learners are, obviously still growing as a teacher, but definitely learning some great lessons and strategies on my own. Just like the golden rule we were taught growing up “treat others the way you want to be treated”; definitely still applies when you’re a teacher working with students.