Monday, April 23, 2012

How a Trouble Child Became an A-Student in 1 Week

A Post on Student Achievement Best Practices

By Rhonda Rountree, Reading Specialist

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Student achievement best practices can be as simple as giving a student a second chance.
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One thing that I learned by accident a few years ago was give students a chance.  One day while teaching 3rd grade many years ago, I received a call from the office that I had a new student.  I sent down one of my current students to get “Johnny” and escort him to my room.  His parents had to leave and weren’t able to come and meet me that day. 

When Johnny came in my room, I showed him his seat and told him what we were working on.  I wasn’t able to get any information except his name, address, phone number, and what bus he was to ride home.

 A few days later, his parents showed up at my door wanting to know how Johnny was doing.  I told them he was doing fine, making friends, and seemed to be adjusting well.  The parents looked at me dumbfounded.  They even asked me, “Are you talking about our son?”  I reaffirmed that he was very bright, and was getting along with everyone in class.

Now it was my turn to be confused… why was this information so shocking?  His parents informed me that at his previous school, he was in the office just about every day for some type of infraction and it had been this way for a few years.  So when I told him that he was getting along with everyone, it was a shock to them.  Johnny was on the AB honor roll in my class and was well liked by his peers.

When Johnny came into my room, I didn’t have the knowledge of his past behaviors so I didn’t look for bad behavior.  I expected him to behave like a third grader ( inquisitive, impulsive, and wanting to please).  I treated him like I treated the rest of the class.  To encourage friendships and cooperation, my class was set up in groups of 3 and 4 at the time so I introduced him to a group that had just lost a member. The group knew what was expected on cooperation and just started showing Johnny the ropes. 

I saw Johnny this year. He will be graduating from high school and his parents told me that he is getting straight A’s.  They want to give me credit for the change in Johnny but really all I did was give him a chance.

Too often we as teachers see the name of a challenging student on our roster and think “Oh, no! Not them!” Johnny is an example of this mentality.  I think that when the teachers saw Johnny’s name on their roster they started off with the perception of this student is going to be trouble and I need to make sure he doesn’t disrupt my class.

Before Johnny, I was guilty of going to the teacher from the previous year and asking, “What do I need to be on the lookout for?” meaning what "bad behavior do I need to watch for?"  With Johnny I didn’t have a teacher from the previous year to fill me in on all the bad stuff so I couldn’t look for it in him. When I looked for good behavior, that’s what I got.  Johnny didn’t look like a kid with trouble, he looked “normal” so that was the way I treated him.  Johnny finished his elementary career at our school, and he did end up in the office a couple of times.  But he wasn’t in the office everyday like he was at his old school. I don’t think the schools are different in the way they treat students, but I do think the perceptions were very different.  I didn’t see Johnny as a “bad kid”; I saw him as a student that just moved.  I think that perception is what allowed Johnny to reach his full potential.

Now, when I look at my roster and I see the student that is challenging, I think of Johnny and wipe the slate clean.

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