#smileaday Building relationships with challenging students.
I've got three new classes right now. Some classes at my middle school last all year, others one semester, others one quarter, so my "beginning of the school year" work resets for at least some portion of my day several times over the course of a school year.
One of my new classes is a group of 7th graders taking semester Spanish. It's a big class: 30 kids in a classroom built for 20 (the district cap on language classes used to be 15, a decade ago when I took the job). This class is a rough one. It's 80% male. For those who don't deal with middle schoolers often, you should know that 13 year old males are not particularly mature or patient, and can be aggressive and super high energy. Classroom management is easier when the gender balance is more 50/50 at this age because the girls are more focused and cooperative. So, this skewed demographic is definitely a challenge.
It's also got a mix of native speakers, kids with some language experience, and total newbs. It's got about 20% kids who are accustomed to failure in their classroom experience. I'm stubborn though. Determined that every one of them is going to make progress. I don't like to see 13 year old people accepting that school just isn't for them and they're doomed to failure. That's way too soon for giving up the fight.
It's hard though. It's easy to lose heart when even basic conveying of information requires hacking through a jungle of apathy and resentment. These kids don't just automatically trust in the good faith of their educators. They've had too many experiences that hurt them.
I knew I was getting somewhere in getting their buy-in today when one of the high-flyers (admin-speak for "kids who get in trouble a lot") turned to his friend who was getting ready to poke another kid in the ribs just to make him squeal in the middle of my lesson and hissed "Cut that shit out. The lady trying to teach us now."
So far as he knows, I didn't hear that (it's a useful tool in teaching to be selectively deaf sometimes), but I was so pleased at the heart of that, if not the word choice. He wanted to hear what I was going to say because he wants to learn Spanish and has started to have faith that I can help him do that. That's a big step right there!