I told one class today that I was not there for their sheer entertainment. I didn’t raise my voice, nor did I yell. I simply stated it and asked them to step it up, to show engagement, to show me that what we were doing mattered to them because I could tell they were checked out and it made me unhappy. And then we continued on with what we were doing. Just another moment teaching 7th grade.
Yet, as it popped back into my mind, a seemingly insignificant moment from my day, I now see what a missed opportunity it was. Not for another lecture, but instead to realize that these are kids that I am teaching. Kids that we hold to insanely high expectations every single day. Every single day, we expect full commitment in every subject matter. We expect passion. We expect interest. We expect a willingness to try, to create, to experience We expect them to pay attention, to shut everything out except for what’s in front of them. We expect total compliance with all of our rules. At. All. Times. No Excuse.
Yet as adults those same expectations don’t apply to us. Go to any staff meeting or professional development opportunity and you will see adults not paying attention all of the time, not trying all of the time, not tuning in all of the time. Not because we don’t want to. Not because we don’t find it engaging, but because we can’t. No one can. Our brains need a break, and we know it. So we allow ourselves to fidget, to whisper, to slouch, to shift our attention for a moment, because we know we need it.
So why do we forget this fundamental truth when we create our learning environments? Why do we forget that in the very place where we are trying to fire up as many brain cells as possible, that those same brain cells needs a moment to recover, to regroup, to make new connections? That kids need a moment. That these kids are trying. That these kids do want to learn and most days are giving us the best they have. And yes, I get why we have to have high expectations, we are teaching them to be better humans, but at some point we also need to give them a break, because they are human beings first not just learners.
So tomorrow, I will remember that when my students start to slouch, when they start to whisper, when they start to drift, it’s not a reflection always on what we are doing, but more that they are in school and have been working for x amount of hours before they got to me. It’s not always that they don’t care, it’s not always that they don’t want to learn, it’s not always that they are bored. Sometimes they are just full and it is up to us to help them through.
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.