This is the kind of post that I thought should be shared because it means something. It is also the kind of post that gets me in trouble. For this I must write the disclaimer that my school is where I have my experiences, but in these circumstances, it could easily be any school that I'm referring to.
So I recently referred in another post to my students who have become more and more derisive and catty as Springtime swings into full bloom. I imagine it's something like waking a hibernating bear after a long winter only to find that he's hungry and grumpy about the disturbance to his previously scheduled program.
In any case, I find that it has become increasingly important to model positive development for my girls especially. I even talk to their parents at conferences about how I want to see (and have been encouraging) my girls make good choices with regards to their friendships. The simple reasoning behind this being that the drama of girls only gets worse as girls get older. There is some poisonous little seed in the back of our brains which can be wired in such a way that we are cruel and manipulative if not guided (and intrinsically motivated) to be otherwise.
This is the mental place where I found some of my girls two days ago when this fateful discussion occurred once again in our class. And it occurred to me that no matter how young and hip I am (haha), there are times when students don't really believe that I can connect to them on their level. So I tried a new approach.
I hunkered down with my class and I whispered real conspiratorial-like, "I'm going to tell you guys a secret. I'm new this year. Do you think every single teacher in this building was nice to me when I walked in the door?" To which they responded with things like "Sure. " and "Probably!" I looked at them and rolled my eyes at their naivete (for grand effect, you see) and proceeded on, "Absolutely not. Some people have been together for a long time and they are comfortable with each other. It is more work than they think it is worth to let someone new into the group so they ignore you. And it has happened to me this very year is this very school!" The students of course gasped in shock at the fallibility of TEACHERS. "What you are doing in this classroom is showing me the kinds of people that you are choosing to be in this life. You are all old enough to make decisions for yourself and you are all strong enough to go out of your way to show respect and human kindness to another person. It is up to you what kind of person you want to be and prove to yourselves that your future it not going to be filled with meanness and the willingness to exclude others."
Maybe I stepped over a line. Maybe that was too much reality and they're going to go forth distrustful of the people I'd love for them to admire and respect. But I don't think so. I think they think pretty highly of me and were genuinely confused that anyone wouldn't befriend their dear teacher. I think it shows them that they're not wrong and the human nature and the love of being comfortable is a pretty strong motivator. I hope it showed them the value of putting in the work to being kind to someone who might ultimately become pretty important to them.