being a teacher, student voice

Hold Your Tongue

He sits with his head slumped down.  Again.  Nothing in front of him.  Again.  Eyes are closed.   Again.  Arms crossed as he lays his head on the table.  Again.

To a person walking by he looks like he is asleep.

To me, he looks like he is mad.  Actively fighting me and what we are doing.  Again….

But I wait…ask him again if he is okay.  If he needs anything.

He doesn’t answer.

My patience runs thin, after all I have a class to get to.  To teach.  Why can’t he just answer?  I am trying to help after all.  Again.

He can tell probably that my answers are getting shorter.  Less calm in my voice.  And yet, he continues to refuse.  Tells me it’s not worth his time.  That he doesn’t want to do it.  Looks for the holes in my teacher armor and shoots to kill with every word he can think of.

I take it in, knowing now is not the time to fight, and yet it is so hard until I remember to walk away.

To hold my tongue and give some space.  To not guess at what is happening and draw the wrong conclusions, but instead just give time.  Not to try to solve.  Not to try to fix.  Not try to be right there actively problem-solving, trying to get to the bottom of it all.  Instead walking away before I forget what every kid needs; a shoulder, an ear, some time, some space.

And even though every ounce of my teacher mind tells me to come back to him, to try to fix it, to try again, I stay away.  I just watch, take no action, and wait…

And so five minutes later or perhaps even ten, I see his head is up.  He is reading, sort of, he is kind of working.  No longer shut down, but at least alert.  Is it perfect?  Nope.  Is it enough? Nope.  Is it a breakthrough?  Nope, not really, but it is a start, and sometimes that is all we need.

Tomorrow we try again, not stuck in a power struggle, but at least in a place of truce.  In a place where we can both exist and hopefully move an inch further forward toward something that looks like learning, like trust.

Once again, I am reminded of how powerful silence and space can be.  Especially when they expect us to do neither.  Again.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  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.



5 thoughts on “Hold Your Tongue”

  1. Your post is so powerful. It is hard to stay neutral when we want to engage. Oh to know his story…we would probably cry. Thank you for being an example.

  2. Sometimes I think it is just me, finding myself in these power struggles. SO good to know that other passionate, powerful educators find themselves there too. Thank you.

  3. I have been in that situation too. It is incredibly hard to walk away, even when you know it is the right thing to do. Sometimes I worry that to the other children you are “letting him get away with it” and therefore our interfering actions are based on ‘saving face’. Which we all know can just escalate a situation. Space, peace, time…all very useful tools.

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