Friday, December 18, 2009

Off Task? Shhhh.....


As a teacher, I pack the curriculum into every minute of every hour of every school day. Teaching grammar, writing, and reading in one hour and getting students prepared for not one but three state assessments requires it. So imagine my students' surprise, and mine, when I totally fell off the wagon!

It started in academic support, a 45-minute enrichment class with my homeroom students. They were bickering, and it was constant yapping and yacking as they shot verbal jabs at one another through the air.

"You sound like brothers and sisters," I said, finally, in exasperation. "Haven't you heard the saying that if you can't say anything nice, you shouldn't say anything at all?"

"Huh?" They asked with faces turned towards me expectantly.

I told them to look around the room and think about something nice they could say about every single person sitting in there. Then I had them write their name on a slip of paper, which I put into a cup. After they pulled a classmate's name out of the cup, they had to come up to the front of the room and say something nice about that person. And they couldn't just say "she's nice." Having been the recipients of numerous writing lessons during the past four months, they were required to e - l - a - b - o - r - a - t - e. "Details," I said. "Give us details!"

And they did.

They were able to say nice things about every person in that room. The girl who began the year with attitude written all over her face was complimented on her behavior and on her beautiful complexion. Her smile lit up the room. And another girl who has struggled with friendships and self-esteem had at least seven students clamoring to say something nice about her.

These kids are smart. They weren't about to let their teacher off the hook. They said that I had to say something nice about each one of them. And then the tables were turned again as several of them wanted to say something nice about me. Things like "you work us hard, but we know it's because you want us to be better writers." "When I get here in a bad mood, you make me laugh." "You're not all moody on us."

They've proclaimed Thursdays as "Therapy Thursdays."

I was so proud of them. And a bit worried. Our academic support time had rolled into language arts time, and it was thirty minutes of community-building instead of grammar and writing and reading.

But, you know what?

That was the best lesson I've taught all year.

7 comments:

Kamana said...

i love lessons like that. impulsive decisions that lead you somewhere away from what you originally planned. but oh, so worth it.

Silver said...

:) Positive spirit in building positive thinking well of others. That's an excellent well worth practice!

;)
~Silver

cinner said...

Ithink it wan an excellent task and all benefited from, they will remember that one for sure. Some people don't here anything positive about themselves all day, so this may have meant the world to some of them. I wish you had been my teacher.Take care.

miruspeg said...

Loved reading this post Roban. OH I would have loved being a fly on the wall during this impromptu lesson. :)

Happiness is sharing the best lesson you taught all year....or as Albert Schweitzer said:
"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful".

Lots of love
Peggy xxxx

McMGrad89 said...

How wonderfully positive.

beth said...

what a perfect lesson....maybe we should play that game the next time I'm in a room of adults....

just saying !

anyhow, your kids will remember this without question and maybe even play it at home when they and their siblings start fighting.....

you should be so proud of yourself for going outside the normal teaching boundaries....

Candace said...

Sometimes we just have to give up our "plan" and go with the moment. I'm sure that your students will really remember this lesson and EVERYONE (including us adults) likes to hear something nice about ourselves.

And of course, you did work in that LA by making them give those all so important details! You are such a great teacher and kids will always learn better when they have a teacher who cares about them!

I had a teacher who did a lesson like this with us in 8th grade and I still remember it and I still have the paper where all my classmates wrote down nice things about me!