Be the change, reflection, students

Stop Seeing Red Cars

You know that kid I am about to write about.  That pencil swirling, head lay downing, always poking kid.  He always has en excuse for why he is doing whatever he is doing that is greatly annoying you at the time.  And I say “he” only because I have never had a “she” but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  So you try your most patient tone of voice, you conference one on one on your feelings and how they are hurt whenever he does that thing he does so well.  He promises sometimes to get better but remember it really wasn’t his fault.  And you don’t believe him but you give him the benefit of the doubt, after all, you love all children.  5 minutes later he is doing those things again; not listening, fiddling, goofing off.  You panic and think you must be boring, non-enigmatic, sleep inducing and yet a little voice tells you that he is the problem, not you.

So you try a different approach; a stern warning; we will call your parents.  And yet those parents where the ones that told you their son was a little strange, good luck with him.  He doesn’t seem to care too much about that either, after all, they have had that same phone call many times before.  So you wish you had a punishment system, some sort of way you could take something away from him until he behaved.  Until he conformed.  Until he stopped doing those things.  And then you realize, hey wait, stop seeing red cars.

In my first teaching year, I had to take a mentor class, and although some times it was more a social gathering than educational, one video stands out.  In it the narrator speaks of the “red car syndrome” as in you buy a red car and all of a sudden when you drive it, all you ever see are all of the other red cars.  Well, inherently we as teachers see red cars in our classrooms too.  You hone in on that kid and instead of ever seeing all of the improvements, or the struggle to act the right way, you only see the problems, the slips, the slides, the just not acting the perfect way.  You see only the behavior you loathe, that upsets you.  So stop!  Be aware of it, speak to him about it, and then realize you are hyper-focused on him.  This kid did not wake up that morning and decide this is how he would act in school; you are after all the next teacher in a long line of teachers before you.  This may take years to help him with, or even better yet, find a way to make it work.  Don’t let it overwhelm you, don’t let it bring you down, but more importantly do not take your frustration out on the kid.  After all, he would probably rather be a perfect child too (which by the way, perfect children do not exist).  So stop seeing red cars, instead embrace, celebrate and realize that we are all human beings, quirks and all, even if that human being happens to be 9 years old.

4 thoughts on “Stop Seeing Red Cars”

  1. I love this blog post! I have always tried not to put too much stock into what others say about students or even my past interactions with the kids. However, as you said, sometimes I find myself falling into the "Red Car Syndrome" as well. Thanks for reminding me to start looking for the rainbow.Oh an aside: I am really enjoying your blog! I can't believe that it took me so long to find it! Being the eternal optimist, I find your positive attitude inspiring!

  2. This is a wonderful post. Thank-you for reminding us how easy it is to become caught up in bringing our own judgements and prejudices to our classrooms.I will be sharing this with all my staff next term.Looking forward to reading lots more from you! 🙂

  3. Jamie – thank you so much for your thoughts on this post. I think it is very easy for us to get sucked into bashing of students with out meaning to so when I wake up in the morning i make a very deliberate choice to embrace the kids instead. Thank you for discovering my blog, I am glad you are here.

  4. Arthur, thank you for your comment as well and thank you for wanting to share it with your staff. I think most teachers come to school wanting the very best for their kids and yet sometimes the day ends up going the other way. We are all human, and when we realize that, then we can embrace ourselves and how we want to change our mistakes and misconceptions.

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