This week, a student gave me permission to take a sick day
"Ms. Tsai....you never miss a day do you?", a student asks me. He sounds impressed with a twinge of that I was hoping we would have a sub today feeling.
My immediate reaction is panic This student hates my class. I'm doing a bad job. What do I say??
I play it off in the only way I know how in moments of discomfort like this....blame it on my race?
"Oh yeah you know...when you had Asian parents like me, you could never miss school! Unless you were dead...which I'm not"
The students laugh. I'm able to escape that moment of discomfort with humor and by placing the blame (unfairly) on my parents and my race (neither of which are the actual reason why I resist staying home from school).
But wait...what just happened here? A student put me on the spot. Why did I react by taking the attention off of me....by running away from the spotlight?
As a teacher, uncomfortable moments like this happen all the time. Why? Because teenagers (for better and for worse) have no problems putting the teacher on the spot. Unless they're being disrespectful (in which case, I'll address it), most of the time they're generally curious. And they ask because they're not afraid to ask. I don't get this kind of curious interrogation from adults. I get it from kids. Kids who aren't afraid to ask "why" or "why are you like this" or "why do you do it this way?"
Teaching is relational work. Uncomfortable moments when students question me, my beliefs, or my actions are opportunities to practice self-awareness with myself and model self-awareness with students. In other words, ask myself 1) What objectively just happened 2) How did I respond? 3) Why did I respond that way? 4) How can I use this moment to improve my teaching?
What objectively just happened?
How did I respond?
Why did I respond this way?
How can I use this moment to improve my teaching?
Thank goodness for this student. The sick day I ended up taking felt amazing.
Teachers spend a lot of time trying to figure out why our students act the way they are. We're like detectives trying to figure out teenage behavior.
But...teachers don't spend enough time examining why we act the way we do.
So often we see students caught in self-destructive behaviors (avoiding homework, low self-esteem, getting distracted, feeling afraid....) and we think How do you NOT realize how this is hurting you??? Well, the truth is....the students don't realize how their behaviors are hurting them because we don't teach them to be self-aware. To be vulnerable enough with themselves to actually dig in and ask....why am I acting the way I am and how can I improve?
This week I'm wondering, if teachers can model or even teach the skills of self-awareness to their students.... what good could come out of doing just that? When it comes to self-destructive behaviors, I could say "study harder" a million times and the students won't change their behavior. Maybe, cultivating self-awareness in myself and in my students is the first step towards empowering students to feel motivated to change.
So.....how can we get students to practice identifying, questioning, and understanding their behaviors in order to change them?