This week, the week of 10/13, marks my 6th week at my high school placement. I have not actually written a post about my experiences at my placement, mostly because my better stories were not really blogging material. Now that I’ve had enough time built up and observed for an extended amount of time, I had some musings that I wanted to share about building relationships with my students.
The first real relationship that I built was with a young lady that had joined the 2nd period class, 2 weeks into the semester. She will be referred from now on as ‘H’. H was not there for most of the first unit, so instead of taking the unit test, I was tasked with going over some of the earlier classwork with her. While working, she proceeded to regal me in stories about her life. This was in part because some of the classwork involved asking personal questions meant to get to know students better. The other part was that I shared some of my personal information upfront, specifically that I was a grad student at the U of R who was student teaching at the school. She asked me about why I was interested in teaching, using deficit language to describe herself and her peers when giving reasons about why I shouldn’t become a teacher in the city. I gave her as honest a response as I could, “I grew up going to the RCSD and I want to work with students like you and me because there is a need for good teachers here.” Her sentiment about me from this point on was that he cares which resulted in me being referred to as “cool”.
The relationship with H acted as an in with other students, specifically the crew she would sit with during lab. She told them that I was “cool” which helped eased their guards around me. This group is fond of associating my CT and me with superheroes. I have been referred to as both Robin and Batman, while my CT has been associated with Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man. Recently, the lines have blurred with some of these students as I was called an “signature wh**e” by a student who was upset that I signed her paper last. I am unsure if I had betrayed her by not signing her paper as soon as she asked, but this response was not totally unsurprising. The use of language was surprising, though. She, ‘A’, will commonly disrespect me in a playful way. An example of this would be her telling me to “keep on stepping” when I walk by her area. I usually respond with a raised brow and A gets back in line. Nonverbal cues have been a common tool that I have used to redirect student behavior. The situation with the signatures was a different beast and she wanted nothing to do with me, but I think by Monday she will probably be totally over it.
Using egg cell models, a student said, “These look like testicles.” I told him that while I was happy he was making connections between the lab and his own life, he needed to wait until the reproduction unit before he could start discussing things of that nature.” I received a positive response from the students with this comment and my CT also told me that it was perfect response as well. It told the students that I heard what they said, that what they said had value, but that it wasn’t entirely appropriate.
As I further develop relationships with students, it becomes increasing difficult to make sure that the lines don’t blur and that I lose my position as an authority figure. I should not be a friend to my students, but position myself more as a caring leader. But it has been a difficult process trying to think of ways to respond to students that can help maintain the careful balance of caring, but also providing the means to keep them on task.