"You don't want to help me! Whenever I ask for help you don't give me the help I want. You only ever help other people. You aren't helpful."Wow. Ever been punched in the guts? That's pretty much how I've been feeling. I love this kid, in spite of their accompanying challenges. In fact it's possibly because of the their accompanying challenges that they have such a soft spot in my heart. These words stopped me in my tracks. After much soul-searching and reflection I realised that perhaps the individual relationships I have with my students is part of the problem. Or rather, not the relationships themselves, but the fact that my relationship with each child is so different and results in highly individualised treatment which isn't necessarily understood by everyone else in the class.
I had to do something and quickly.
I called everyone together in a circle and we had a brief discussion about the different relationships we all have with each other. Aside from a few small pockets of resistance to this idea, nearly everyone was accepting of this concept. I asked everyone to imagine that they'd injured themselves somehow. They shared their injury with the class while I dug around in the cupboard (making a big show of not listening). Each student was handed a bandaid (sticking plaster?) and asked to apply it to the back of their left hand to help fix their imaginary injury.
"But my injury is on my rib! How will this help?"
"And mine is a smashed leg! This won't do anything!"
"That's the point guys. If she gives us all the same treatment none of us get what we need."Indeed. The class went on to articulate that because I didn't know what kind of help or where they needed help I wasn't actually able to help them AND that treating them all the same wasn't remotely helpful. The connection to each of them having different learning needs was seamless, and from there the individualised relationships were not a particularly big leap.
Shortly after, my troubled student sidled up to me and whispered:
"I think I know why I've been acting so silly in class, calling out and all that. Can I talk to you about it after school?"You betcha! The outcome: some general stress about stuff going on at home and a desire to feel 'equal'. I queried this word.
"Equal is the wrong word. I want to be important, but you said we're all important so I have to trust you that I am. I guess I need to remember that if you treat me different to someone else it's 'cos I am."Yes it is. Yes. It. Is. If that wasn't the best way to end the week, we went on to talk about the idea that sometimes the help that we want isn't the help we need AND that I've worked really hard to be in a position to know what and how to offer the needed help so trusting me is a good thing. Holy moly.
This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 1 Know students and how they learn
Standard 4 Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments