A few years ago my son, Sammy, said he wanted to help me write a blog, so he grabbed my computer and typed for a bit. When he handed it back, this is what I saw at the top of the screen: “School is very boring. Here, let me prove to you how boring it is. This is what it stands for - Seven Crap Hours Of Our Lives.”
As a principal, this was immediately discouraging. It felt like being that preacher who has that kid who is always getting in trouble and somehow as a parent you should have been able to contain that rebellious spirit. But before you jump to any conclusions or make judgements about my son, let me tell you a little bit about him. First of all, when he wrote this he was a freshman in high school. Secondly, he was a teenager. Thirdly, he thinks he is pretty funny. (Which he gets from me.) Last of all, he really does like school, but only on two conditions.
He has to know that the teacher likes him. This has always been the case for him. He will not try in a class if he feels like the teacher does not care about him. He will sit there, fake attention, not contribute, and give the minimal amount of effort required each day. However, on the flip side, if he knows the teacher does like him, he will go out of his way to prove his worth. He will always be to class on time, he will study hard, he will share this thoughts, and he will share funny stories with me about the class, and about that particular teacher. And this part is key - He will do this even if he doesn’t enjoy the subject being taught.
He likes to be interested in what he is learning. When he was much younger, he had a crazy love for football. He used to collect football cards and read about all the players and watch as much football on TV as possible. Every year at the Scholastic Book Fair, I would buy him all the latest books on the NFL stars. He could rattle off stats about almost any team and player. He didn’t even have to try to remember all of this information. It was just fun for him so it came easy for him. That’s exactly the way it is for him now. The subjects he likes in school, he devours. He spends extra time trying to learn more about what he is introduced to in his classes. He attacks the content just like he attacked football statistics. However, if he is bored or doesn’t care about what he is learning, it’s like pulling teeth to get him to study.
In my opinion, one of these conditions is more important than the other. If only “Condition Two” were in place, Sammy’s success would depend upon whether or not he liked the subject. Each semester he likes about half of the subjects he is required to take. So with those odds, he would only pass half of his classes. But if only “Condition One” were in place, regardless if he liked the subject, he would still work hard because of the relationship he has with his teacher, and for the respect and care the teacher shows him.
I don’t think this is exclusively true for my son. I think many students operate under these conditions. And I think most students are craving teachers who like them. Teachers who don’t have favorites, but who genuinely care for each and every one of their students. Teachers who let the students know that no matter what they do or who they are or what their background is, they are a part of the class and part of the school community, and therefore a part of the family.
So if you are that kind of teacher, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Sammy can’t wait to get into your class.
You can read more of what Mark and Sam have to say in their book It Happens In The Hallway. Just click here.