Saturday, December 15, 2012

Students Write on Their Own After Tragedy

Click to make it larger and readable.
Several of my 8th graders went home after school, heard the news, and took to writing to sort it out for themselves. I only know this because they posted their thoughts to the classroom blog. 

This surprised me.

Sometimes I look at my students and remind myself that they are young, with young minds, no matter how much they want to be older, and heard.

While I can't make them older, and shouldn't, I can help them be heard. 

First, by listening. 

My student teacher just finished her time with us and I hope that lesson, first and foremost remained impressed upon her. Children and adolescents are so used to being talked to by adults. Talked TO. --comes with the territory in many cases (and is often unavoidable and necessary). 

The thing is, when it is time to listen, adults have to exaggerate the listening. We have to let them realize they are being listened to--and we don't always need to give them an answer.

Often, a student will tell himself/herself that mom and dad do not listen or talk with--even though in most cases they do. That is also part of the deal, moms and dads--youth must find their way to be mature enough to understand the difference.

For example, regarding maturity, I overheard an 8th grade student complain to another about a teacher yesterday:
"I better not get anything lower than a B on this algebra test--I mean, I went in for like 20 minutes of extra math help, and she didn't even help me."
"She wouldn't help you?"
"No, she was helping, but I like, sat there for 20 minutes and she totally wouldn't help me. I'm going to be so pissed at her if she gives me anything less than a B."
I could go on about the expectation of passive learning that some young people assume--learning is uncomfortable, school should be like a car wash where knowledge gets put on you...etc.

Sometimes we wish they saw things the way they need to be seen. And sometimes they do--and it surprises us.

And so, I found myself both caught off guard and pleased that a few students used the classroom blog to reach out to write and be heard about yesterday's event. 

It made me consider that writing, and in this case the blog, is in some respects that quiet listener we all need, especially young minds. They know the blog is "public" within our classes. They know they can, and most probably will, receive comments from their peers and me.

Teaching students about all different types of writing can be rewarding in and of itself--I read some beautiful sentiments about pets, grandparents, dreams, and their lives. However, last night's discovery provided a different type of reward--I am proud of the perspectives their young minds have forming in the wake of a national tragedy.

I'm glad they found an outlet that listens and talks with

And I am wondering, what if the national conversation included young people. Would we be ashamed by what they told us?

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