We know we set the mood of our classrooms.
We know that the power we have to make a day better or worse is immense.
We know that what we think about a kid, or a class, sometimes matters more than what we actually do. After all, kids can read us in ways we have yet to fathom.
So when I had gotten stuck on a class being negative. When I had formed a narrative in my mind that a class was never excited to come to English. When I had decided that this was my least engaged class, I was right. Because the moment I decided it, it became true.
Kids will gladly live up to what we believe they are.
And every day I would think of ways I could get the kids to change.
Every day I would think of ways to re-engage them. To discuss with them what the room felt like. To ask them how we could get better.
This went on for months. Wrack my brain to come up with ways to make it a “better” class, yet dreading the energy of the room. I even told others that I didn’t know what to do.
One day, after I had asked the class what else we could try, a child asked me this, “Is it all of us, Mrs. Ripp? Is it me…”
For some reason, I didn’t know what to say. It took me a while at least and finally, I realized that when I told him “It was the energy of the class…” I had lied.
It wasn’t them.
It was me.
I was the one that had determined the fate of this class.
I was the one that had shaped the narrative of our community and the kids, while responsible too, could not do anything to change my mind.
And so I took a moment at home and realized that what I had pegged as negative energy, was just 7th graders being calm.
That what I had taken as disengagement was instead a quiet pondering of facts.
That what I had taken as hating English, instead was an investment, albeit a quiet one, into learning deeply.
My class wasn’t a negative class, it was a chill class, and as a 7th-grade teacher, I was not used to that. I created a problem, breathed in the narrative, and then looked for evidence to back it up. It wasn’t the kids, it was me.
So before we blame the kids.
Before we blame the class.
Before we assume there is nothing we can do because we have tried everything. Stop. Look at yourself. Look at what you have determined to be true and then what you are doing to make it true.
We hold more power than we can ever imagine, let us never forget that.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released. I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.