Students grow in a caring classroom

From Holly White, 7th grade Language Arts, Piedmont Community Charter School, Gaston County, NC

At the end of last school year, teachers warned me about the incoming 7th graders.  I had a great group of 7th graders at the time, so I thought, “God blessed me with this group to prepare me for what is to come.”

I used to “pride” myself on the fact that I didn’t listen to teachers’ horror stories about children.  I had to see who they were in my classroom before judging.  Now, after reading The Six Virtues of the Very Educated Person, I would say I am humbled by the positive relationships I am able to build with my students.

There was one rising 7th grader, in particular, who I was worried about having in my class. I sometimes saw him throwing fits in the hallway and cussing out teachers as he ran crying and screaming to the office.

And sure enough, he is in my class this year. He is extremely intelligent and writes better than most 7th graders. Throughout this year I have tapped into his strengths and created opportunities for him to shine with his classmates.  He went from thinking everyone was talking about him (bullying) to knowing that everyone was talking to him because they were interested in what he had to say.

It is amazing to see how students can change when the classroom is a positive, nurturing environment; where they feel comfortable sharing their accomplishments and even their defeats.  One day recently, this boy was having a rough day–almost as bad as the ones I saw the previous year. I had to take action because even the other students knew the slightest annoyance might trigger an outburst.

Instead of sending him out of the room, where he would be embarrassed, I asked him to help teach the class.  The topic was the Holocaust, in preparation for studying The Diary of Anne Frank.  He knew so much about history and the students wanted him to share.  Once he realized the others wanted to hear from him, his mood instantly changed.

I was humbled by the way my students were able to see that their actions/reactions were important in helping a fellow student. Not only that; but, as class progressed, this student showed strength and courage.  And today he continues to grow.


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