Until I took a trip to Campeche, Mexico in my junior summer of high school, I was that kid who thought little of himself.
It would take six weeks in a foreign country, living with a family I didn’t know, understanding not a word of Spanish and surrounded by a very attractive group of girls to convince me that I might actually have something within me that others find interesting.
Why that group of girls chose to pick me up in that tiny VW Beetle and take me with them to the discotheque I have no earthly idea. I will of course admit to you, it left quite the impression.
Before that trip, and the events of which still confounds my mother to this day, I was the quiet one.
In school, I would hide behind the student in front of me.
I kept my hand down and cast my eyes downward when the teacher asked for a response.
If there was ever a chance to voice discontent or share an unpopular opinion, it definitely wouldn’t be coming from me.
I did not cause trouble and did not cause my teachers any grief. Because of this demeanor, it was rare that I held the attention of my teachers. I did not appear on their radar as unruly or as someone that needed to be confronted. In fact, thinking back, I can’t think of many teachers who made an effort to get to know me.
Except for Mr. David Saunders. My sixth grade teacher made it a point to ask me for help with German, a class he was taking. I felt special being called upon by my teacher for academic help. He made science an adventure as he included me in his plans to confound my fellow students with remote control contraptions for which only I had the remote. He left a great impression on how to bring out the best in this student.
And now that I’m that teacher calling on students, I know that the same kind of student sits in my classroom.
In what has become an annual tradition, New Year’s Eve survivors now either hold tightly to their resolutions or have in these last few days resolved to admit that they were shared in a moment of weakness.
I therefore refuse to do the same and attempt to continue what I sometimes do fairly well.
Sometimes, but not nearly enough.
I will do a better job of being that teacher who calls on the person sitting on their hands.
I will more often ask the shy one to step forward and share with the class how they successfully solved a problem.
I will attempt to have an honest conversation with the student who wants no part of sharing why he or she is so defiant.
I will keep trying to force a smile upon my quietest students with a joke or self-deprecating humor. I will summon from my list of nicknames till one fits so well they begin to use it on the top of their papers.
I will do a better job at focusing on those who would rather not be focused upon.
In doing so I will remember that sometimes we all need some time alone with a good book or a brain break by doing something creative.
We all need a break, teachers included, from what can become a monotonous classroom. It is then that I will introduce a game, a stretch break, a song or perhaps evoke the timeless thrill of story time – or even show and tell.
I will remember the students who aren’t always at the top of their class, nor in danger of failing their state assessments.
I resolve to reach the unreachable and ignored.
This of course does not happen anywhere near as much as it should. After thirteen years, you would think I’ve got a successful plan that hits on all cylinders.
Sadly, you’d be wrong.
Caught in the zeal to get to the end of my lesson plans I’m too often relieved that there weren’t too many questions. I assume that means the students learned enough to be able to continue to the next lesson.
Yes, I know.
Assumptions aren’t a good practice to rely upon.
As this new year begins, as I enter the dark classroom in the morning and turn on the computer that sit on my desk, as I write down the morning message that my students will read when they arrive, I will do a better job paying attention when I haven’t in the past.
I will reach out and do more than teach – I will connect with those who are hiding and hoping that they can quietly sit and remain anonymous.
I won’t allow them to be unreachable or ignored. I won’t let them be who I so faithfully tried to be.
This is not a resolution that will fall by the wayside as other priorities find their way to the top of my to do list.
This is simply a promise to my students.
What resolutions or promises have you made to your students this year? What is your hope for your classroom and why? I would love to hear them, and would appreciate your sharing them in the comments section.