Walking Down Memory Lane

Yesterday, I met a former student … and the memories came flooding back.

 

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by The Wandering Angel

Three years ago, I was a student teacher on my final teaching placement. I was teaching a troubled, angry, and violent 8 year-old student … whom my cooperating teacher simply couldn’t stand.

“Roy” was (and remains) one of my most memorable “little characters’ … I’ve written about him before (September 2010). Back then, he was “liable to throw things at the teacher, run away from the class, and draw the teacher into power struggles”.

 

Yet, over those eight weeks, I forged a positive connection.


I made a difference … even if only for a short time
.

“He made an effort to moderate his behaviour, and he never “exploded” into his aggressive chair-throwing & escape act while I was teaching him.

Working with him again last year, I believe I was one of very few, perhaps the only teacher Roy ever came to respect and trust.”  (September 2010)

Anecdotally, I know that Roy returned to his old ways when I left his classroom. Sad, but not particularly surprising given his life and school experiences.



Roy was a life-changing experience

My experiences with Roy had a defining impact on my teaching and classroom management approach. He taught me so much … and I still carry “his lessons” with me today. In fact, there is “a little bit of Roy” in most of my blogged classroom management reflections, which continue to bring so many visitors to A Relief Teacher’s Journey.


Yet, when Roy moved schools, I feared we’d never meet again.



Today, I went for a walk down memory lane …

“While out on duty today, I was approached by a student, and to my amazement, Roy walked into my life again. We went for a walk together … I shook his hand, and thanked him.”

“I finally had the chance to tell him that I’d never forgotten him … the chance to tell him that he taught me so much about teaching and about life.”

I know, from my conversations with his classroom teacher that “Roy” hasn’t changed much over the years; and perhaps has become slightly worse.


Yet, years ago, I once told Roy that I believed in him. I felt, deep down, behind the facade, he was a ‘good kid’. Angry, yes. But not bad.
I still do. I have hope. I care.


I still believe that my most memorable “little character” can make it. And one day, I hope he will read this and understand.

Creating a Classroom Environment That Works – Part 1: The Context

On my final student teaching experience in 2008, I taught what I thought to be a Year 3 “class from hell”. I was an inexperienced and vulnerable student teacher, exhibiting a complete lack of confidence in my teaching and behaviour management abilities. I then found myself teaching one of the largest and most difficult classes in the school.

Describing my experiences in my 2008 teaching portfolio, I described how I explored ways to manage and motivate students with extremely challenging behaviours and special learning needs:

  • “Roy” was renowned for extreme aggressive outbursts – throwing things at the teacher, running away from class, and drawing the teacher into power struggles. 
  • “Daniel”, a student with extremely low self-esteem, produced poor work and withdrew completely into himself when stressed, [tending to curl up] under his desk.
  • “Edward”, working at a K/PP level in Literacy and Maths, [exhibited] a challenging ‘baby’ attitude and inconsistent performance. 

I went on to record how “I literally transformed my class into a vibrant and enthusiastic learning community; witnessing some remarkable changes in some of my most challenging students … [through] perseverance, care, teamwork, and a reflective engagement with behaviour management theories”

It is no understatement to say that working with these students prompted considerable professional growth in the areas of behaviour management and facilitating student learning. In fact, my experiences in this classroom have had a profound impact on the classroom & behaviour management approach which I continue to apply and refine today. 

Food for Thought 

To close, here’s some food for thought for those final year university students with romantic visions of their future classes. I thought my Year 3 class was a “class from hell”, yet on my extensive travels as a relief teacher, I have taught worse, and not just in upper primary either. As a teacher, your class is what you make of it, but don’t expect your first class to be angelic. You may get lucky, but don’t be surprised if you end up with a “seriously difficult” class on your first appointment. It happens. The trick is to be prepared.