Each time I walk into a classroom, I never know what to expect. There are so many variables that I can't predict, and even my lesson plans are extremely fluid. I have learned to always have at least three back up plans, and one of those must be able to stretch to fill the whole classtime, if necessary.
Yet, there are a few constants, too. There is always the kid who is the 'star' of the class, the shy kid who comes out of their shell and embraces the project, and the kids who want to be anything, as long as their best friend can be one, too.
But I have a favorite, I admit. It's that kid in the corner, whose desk may be to the side, and who doesn't like group work. That kid who looks at me with sort of distant eyes on the first day and lets me know in no uncertain terms that he'll participate, but he's NOT going to enjoy this.
To me, it's a dare. "I DARE you to make me laugh." Oh man, I LOVE that challenge!
This was the case with one boy in particular. A first grader, he couldn't sit still for long, and had a tendancy to bother his neighbors. The teachers told me he probably couldn't read many lines because he was still learning English. Because of this barrier, he would often tune out in class. This play was not interesting to him. It was just another thing he was going to have to try to read and understand.
Because I want every child to try, everyone gets a line in our Prelude plays. That way they get the exerience of performing without being overly stressed. So I gave him one sentence. He wouldn't pay attention and always needed prompting to say his one line. We kept trying.
Once, when his behavior got out of hand, I asked him to sit by the wall in 'time out.' He went, and began smashing his little head against the cement wall. I told him to stop, quickly gave the other kids a project, and sat down beside him, knees to knees. I told him I hadn't put him there because I was angry, I just wanted him to calm down. Once he was calm, he could come back and join the group. I couldn't let him disturb the other kids, so I had just given him more space. I gave him his own crayons and paper to work with, and told him to come back to the group when he was ready. No problem – standard behavior management.
A week or two later, I came after school to have a meeting with the teachers. Many of my kids were involved in the various programs going on in the school building and after my meeting I came upon a big group of them at the water fountain, including this particular boy. All of them came running to hug and talk to me, but he stayed back a bit. Once I had hugged them all, I smiled at him and turned to go.
"Ms. King!" He came running over and in a loud, clear voice proudly said his line to me. I praised him for his hard work and gave him a big hug. He smiled and then ran to join the other kids.
When I turned around, I saw his teacher standing in the hall behind me with tears in her eyes. She told me that she'd never seen him so happy or so proud of himself. This play had become very important to him.
That's why you never, NEVER give up on a kid. They'll surprise you every time.
My mom always had this picture up in her classroom.