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How to get your Students to Stop Trolling

Maria Fallon Current Affairs, Education, Elementary, Life in the Classroom, Parent Involvment, Uncategorized

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Ughhh, that was tough!

That was all I could say as I wrapped up my second week of virtual teaching.

The first few weeks have been nonstop: professional development, grade level collaboration, individual Zoom meetings with each student and their family, packing up and delivering learning materials, lesson planning, teaching lessons on Zoom, providing feedback on student work, troubleshooting technology problems, and more- all from an empty, quiet classroom.

I go to work feeling tired and stressed and leave feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. But the 6- and 7-year-old faces that fill my screen on gallery view keep me motivated. They are my why.

During one of our morning meetings last week, I noticed one of my students looked sad, withdrawn, and just not his normal smiley self. Since I couldn’t walk over, squat down next to him, and check-in how I normally would; I asked (through a private chat) if he would like to stay on Zoom and talk about how he was feeling. He immediately replied, “yes plez”. As the other students unmuted and waved goodbye, this student gazed at me through teary eyes. Our conversation unfolded:

Me: “Thank you for staying on to talk with me.”
Student: (half smile, half frown)
Me: “You are doing a great job. It is hard to be learning from home. How are you feeling?”
Student: “I just feel… a bit… a bit like a troll…”
Me: “A troll? Tell me more.”
Student: “I feel like, like a troll… who is losing his color.”

Cue the tears. If you have seen the 2016 animated movie Trolls, you know that a troll losing his color is about the saddest thing ever. In the movie, one of the trolls, Branch, turns grey after losing his Grandma. The loss of his colors symbolizes the loss of his happiness and hope.

Me: “Why do you think you feel like that?”
Student: “I miss my friends. I wish I could give you a hug. I want to play tag.”

So simple, yet so complex.

Not only are our youngest learners struggling with expressing themselves, so are parents, teachers, and administrators. This global pandemic has caused grief, anxiety, and confusion for everyone. I have experienced the joy I get from teaching dim, just like Branch’s colors, during remote learning.

As a teacher, I have noticed and felt the impacts of COVID-19 on everyone’s social-emotional well-being: students, parents, and teachers. I have a message for each one of you.

Be proud of what you have accomplished! No adult has ever gone through what you are going through. Not seeing your friends, having to learn at home, having birthday parties and graduations cancelled… these are hard things. You are resilient, you are strong, and you can do this. Keep reminding yourself to do your best!

Parents and Caregivers
You are your child’s first and most important teacher. You know your child inside and out. You are doing the best you can with all the circumstances and what you are doing is enough. Model grace for yourself, patience when things don’t go quite right, and determination when things feel difficult. Your children will grow and learn just by your responses.

Make time to be fully present with your students. Keep weaving community building activities into your daily lessons. Provide opportunities for student voice. Create time and space for students to navigate their feelings and actions. Celebrate student effort. Give yourself time to decompress and do what you need to to fill your cup, because when your cup is full you can give more freely to those around you.

As for my student who felt he was losing his color, we have made progress. The partnership between his mom, me, and him has a strong foundation. I commend him for having the words to express his feelings. In our most recent conversation he told me, “I believe in myself, I can do anything with time and practice.” The opportunity to witness his colors grow brighter and stronger is heart-warming and inspiring.

Bottom line- we all need to consciously choose to lift each other up to model compassion, patience, courage, grace, and grit for the good of our youth.

How do you create time to nourish your students’ social-emotional wellness during this time?


Comments 16

  1. Andrea Divijak

    Well said. I am so sad for your student and the way he feels, but so happy that we have teachers like you who are willing to dig a bit deeper into the situation to help to create a deeper connection. Keep up the good (but exhausting) work!

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  2. Leah Clark

    WOW! This is a profound moment in teaching. I can relate to your student. This isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t as fun as being together in our classrooms, but I love your ability to create a space albeit virtually where your student feels comfortable sharing his feelings. Kudos!

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  3. Christie Hingstrum

    Beautifully written!
    I know that myself as a parent can sometimes “lose my colors “ but I know that my kids are looking at me for guidance and how I am going to react. God bless you for being that teacher who, even through zoom, noticed one of your students needed some extra guidance and love.

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  4. Kimberly Reynolds

    You are truly amazing. The tears in my eyes are from being so deeply moved by your words and the honesty of a beautiful child. Thank you for sharing ❤️ you are one of a kind. I’m honored to call you my friend. The world needs more kindness like yours.

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      Maria Fallon

      Thank you, Kim! In all the craziness it is so important to remember that we came into this profession for kids! To teach them, learn from them, and grow with them! I am so grateful to work with great colleagues like you!

  5. Jeannie Pettet

    As a teaching aide who is working with you and your students, I am enthralled watching your enthusiasm and joy as you zoom with your students. Making that extra effort to come into a classroom to make sure your student is on task and understanding the lesson is going beyond what is expected of you. But, being a teacher is a calling and you fulfill that with all your heart…..going that extra mile. Thank you for dedicating yourself to our future generations.

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      Maria Fallon

      Hi Mrs. Pettet! Thank you so much for your sweet words. I definitely do feel like teaching is a calling, but I can do what I do because we have so many working on our campus for the common good! You spread light and joy around school when you don’t even realize it!

  6. Susan Collins

    This is a great blog! It makes me think of other movies that might help students identify their feelings: Inside Out, Pleasantville (for tweens and up). You are doing a great job of meeting your students where they are. You’re right: this is hard on everyone. When adults struggle, kids struggle even more. Keep up the great work!

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      Maria Fallon

      Thank you Susan! I think you are definitely right about utilizing movies to connect with students on an emotional level. Thank you for the ideas for the older students! I’ll have to give those a watch!

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  8. Thomas Fallon

    Each year you’ve been teaching, I share with you how extremely proud I am of you and your teaching accomplishments. Seems to me that with each new school year comes brand new unexpected challenges.
    As we learn during our careers “Change is Good” . Those who have the innate ability to thrive by adapting to change in their respective fields, are the ones that tend to be most successful. So, whether your challenge in a new school year would be a significant (33%) increase in class size, the coordination and planning effort that becomes apparent teaching a classroom now comprised of 2 grade levels, or, all the nuances that come with mandates for distance learning and teaching, you continue to impress by rising to the occasion, making your Father more proud of your ability to enhance the future for each of your young students.

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