One of my favorite times of the school day is class change.
As soon as the bell rings, I hurry to my post at my doorway, and the adventure begins. I get to see the faces of kids I’ve taught in the past, I have the chance to greet my current students, and I have a quick moment to have adult conversation with my coworkers. Amidst grabbing a quick snack or sip of water, those six minutes in between classes is a wonderful opportunity for a teacher to get plugged into the goings-on of the school.
I have counted the weekly boyfriends of Laura and giggled at how finicky high school romance is. I have watched Jaquavis knock a few teeth from Kade’s mouth and talked Deanna down from slugging her back-stabbing best friend. I’ve high-fived Raymond for his three sacks and consoled Jennifer for her softball team’s missed playoffs. I have seen a lot and learned a lot during those six minutes in between classes.
Sometimes those few moments are the perfect opportunities to establish relationships with kids. For me, it doesn’t matter if they ever enter my classroom or not, I’m going to seek them out. The quiet ones walking with their heads down. The loud ones making a scene. The scary ones with a look-to-kill. The eccentric ones trying to make a statement. Every kid, everywhere wants one thing, and it’s something teachers can so easily give — acknowledgment. And I’m not scared to make a fool of myself for the sake of drawing a kid in or help me chisel away at some of their stone facades.
That reminds me of Michael. He was in my senior English class, and on the first day, he announced to me his disdain for school, for reading, for writing, for basically everything. He needed simply to get through the next 180 days, earn his 70, and move on to bigger and better things. Hidden underneath the long hair he would brush in front of his sleepy eyes to conceal his naps in my class, Michael had an intriguing brightness about him. I chose him as my secret project.
My work began from my doorway post. I made a point to welcome him to class every day, by name. Then I would find something to chat with him about during those class change minutes. Before long, he was arriving to class earlier and standing beside me at the doorway. But the ultimate 6-minute success came when I challenged him to a wall squat competition.
For the sake of reaching the unreachables, most teachers develop a repertoire of resourcefulness and a reach-a-kid-at-any-cost supply to tap into when necessity calls. Most efforts are conventional — tutoring, extra supplies, more attention. But sometimes reaching a kid calls for a spontaneous outburst of silliness (and that’s OK.)
After Michael’s jokes one day about this old gal coaching soccer, I hurled a friendly competition at him. Before we knew it, we were both wall-squatted in the hallway with a small crowd of students watching the battle of might.
The bell rang for class to begin, but our quads, although burning and shaking, had a few more minutes of competition left in them. Michael looked over at me and said, “Guess you gotta quit, Ms. Green. We need to start class.” I smirked and responded, “Oh, please. Beating you is way more important.” He smiled. We remained.
The point is that a few minutes is enough time to make an investment in people. Maybe there’s a Michael out there who just needs a little nudge, so be the nudge today. And to my fellow teachers, there’s only a few more days before we start our 180 days of nudging. Hope you’re rested.