One of the things I wish I could do more is to be able to share the stories about the most important part of my profession; my students. Due to ethical and legal issues, I have to be very careful about what I share. I do have a story about one of my students that I couldn’t resist.
When I showed up at my school late July, I ran to the office to get my class list so I could begin learning my new students. I poured over that list reading the names, and trying to put faces to each one. Every spring as I begin to send my kids up to the next grade level, I begin to pay more attention to the upcoming kids as they move around our school. As I looked over my list, I saw one name that I was not looking forward to; Tyler. Tyler was a student in 2nd grade that was constantly in trouble for something. I was never privy to all of the details because it was not ethical for me to be in the loop at that time. However, I did know that the police had been to his classroom on more than one occasion. (I still can’t wrap my head around what would cause the police to come manage a second grader!?) As I looked over my list, my administrator noticed the concern on my face. When I opened up to her, she admitted that Tyler’s placement was deliberate. Her thought was that he needed a positive male role model. I’ve heard this before. Over the years, I have been loaded up with boys and girls who needed that positive male role model. These students are not always the easiest but these students are why I chose to be a male teacher at the primary level. I girded my loins, if you would, and began to prepare for Tyler and welcome him to my classroom.
Knowing Tyler’s history, I decided that it would be best to turn a blind eye to many of his minor offenses. I would let Tyler slide a bit if he was chatting out of turn or if he was out of his seat at a time when it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t want to focus on his negative behavior because I wanted his third grade experience to be different. I chose to limit negative consequences for times when it was absolutely necessary such as fighting or destructive behavior. I am ashamed to admit but even though I hoped for the best, I expected the worst out of Tyler. However, an unexpected thing happened. Tyler showed up at school everyday. He asked to sit in the desk that was closest to me. He stayed in his seat all of the time. When the class was asked to get out a book or a folder, he would quietly follow directions and do what was asked. He would answer questions when called upon and ignore distractions during lessons. My worries and concerns about Tyler at the beginning of the year were completely unfounded. Tyler went from “that kid” who was always in trouble to a role model student.
Even though his behavior improved, his grades were still far below his peers due to the classroom time he missed the previous years. The leadership team at my school helped place him in several intervention classrooms to help close his gap. Starting after Halloween, Tyler began leaving my room for an hour and a half everyday. That’s when the bottom fell out. In my room, Tyler barely called attention to himself. In other rooms, he would act up and argue with the other teachers. Because of this, he would get assigned detentions with our monitors. He would fight with them and then find himself in the principal’s office. He was repeating numerous bad patterns from previous years. After weeks of escalation, my principal finally asked him what he wanted to gain from all of this acting out that he was doing. He screamed at her, “I just want to stay in Mr. Dicus’s room!” When she met with me later and shared this, I got a little teary eyed. We decided that it would be best for Tyler to give him what he wanted. He would stay with me the whole day.
When I think about Tyler, I think about how important the relationships that we form with our students are. Many times, it is not the lesson, the rewards, or the interventions that gets through to students; it is the fact that they know we care. I am so proud of the growth that has happened in Tyler this year and I am so proud that I had a part in his success. Many great things have happened to me this year, but Tyler is one of the proudest achievements in my career. What’s your success story?