In my Special Methods class, we talked a lot about what happens when we have students that act out or students that we simply do not like. The whole time we talked about this, one student that I went to school with from Kindergarten to Senior year stuck out in my mind, let’s call him Johnny.
Johnny was always a little bit of a different cat. I remember in Kindergarten, he wouldn’t listen and he was loud. He was also mean sometimes, but as Kindergarteners we all pretty much accepted him and his crazy ways. This was the year that Johnny was diagnosed with ADD and a behavior disorder that caused him to act out. Due to the fact that I was aware of this situation, you would assume that our teachers were also aware of this and would have useful ways to help Johnny in the classroom to prevent any further problems for him, but evidently they just didn’t care.
Johnny had this bad habit or hitting himself in the head over and over and over again when he was stressed. He would also cry and hold his breath. I remember thinking that it would really suck feeling like that, but evidently our teachers weren’t empathetic towards him because he got yelled at, a lot. They would yell and send him out of the classroom, where the principal or guidance counselor would yell at him and tell him he had to calm down immediately or they would call his mom, who would also come and yell at him. I don’t know about any of you, but nothing makes me more mad than when someone is yelling at me to calm down. Really, it seemed counter productive to me, even as a third grader.
In fifth grade, we were at lunch one day and Johnny got upset and started banging his head on the table, the teacher on lunch duty came and yelled at him. He still got yelled at a lot, which still never helped the situation, but again, I guess the teachers still didn’t care. I saw Johnny blow up a lot through out elementary school. I also saw teachers yell at him a lot, some of them would even ask him if he forgot to take his crazy pills in front of the class. I was embarrassed for him. Here were these people, making fun of him and yelling at him, expecting him to just chill out and relax without trying to put themselves in his shoes. Johnny didn’t want to act like that, he just couldn’t help it.
When we got into junior high, I saw Johnny blow up once, just one time. It was in our social science class, the room got silent as we all awaited the teacher to yell at him and make fun of him. But instead, Mrs. A said “Johnny, can I talk to you in the hallway for a minute?” We were all silent as we strained to listen for yelling in the hallway, but we didn’t hear anything. Mrs. A and Johnny came back in the room and he was calm. We all looked at each other confused, but none of us said a word.
Throughout the rest of high school Johnny hardly had any episodes, and when he started to get stressed or on the verge of an episode, our teachers would talk to him calmly for a few minutes, identify the problem, come up with a solution, and all was well again.
It amazed me how just a little compassion, just a little understanding could have that much of an impact on a child. This really made me realize that as a teacher, you have to try to understand your students and even ones that are really unlikable, like Johnny was sometimes, there is a way to handle every situation without causing more pain to the child that is acting out. I want to be a Mrs. A to a Johnny. I want to be a teacher that shows she understands and that she isn’t judging you for what ever is going on. I want my students to trust me so that they can respect me enough to come to a solution to any problem that we might face. Sometimes things go a little crazy in the classroom, but there is always some way to handle this situation in a graceful manner.