Most students will spend more time in the classroom with their teachers than at home throughout the school year. With that knowledge in mind, I think allowing those spaces to feel safe and where a student can be themselves is critical. Asking a simple question and getting to know the children and young adults coming into the classroom everyday is so important. Speaking from the student’s point of view, I know it’s easier said than done, but I can say from experience, it can make a lifetime impression.
When I was a student in the classroom and teachers wanted to get to know me it always made a huge difference in not only my work, but my feelings of respect and safety with those teachers. I was a student who lived with a disability that wasn’t always obvious in the classroom and that made things sometimes difficult. But when I was able to explain this to my teachers and they wanted to learn more and help, it made all the difference. I know it’s difficult for every teacher to find a way to do this and that is how my idea of the post-it method can be a simple solution that any teacher, teaching any curriculum can use.
The thought is simple really and it’s more of a check in that a teacher can have with their students. Each student has the opportunity to write one fact down on a post-it note to share with their teacher. This could be anything, something the student is struggling with in the classroom, something they want the teacher to know, or just a silly fact. They will write the fact down and then hand it to the teacher without having the other student’s seeing or knowing what is written on the post-it note. Then, the teacher will open these post-it notes at a later time and find ways to bring it back up in conversation with their students privately. Caring about the small stuff, leads students to let you know about the big stuff too. Maybe they struggle taking notes in the classroom, but were too afraid to tell you that before. Maybe they are having a hard time learning the lesson but are too afraid to say it outloud. The list goes on and on and having the freedom to express that privately with the teacher can be exactly what they need.
Of course, it won’t always be the struggles or the bigger problems they might be facing. They might start out with nothing but random, silly facts about the students, but as time goes on and the relationship grows this can be such a powerful tool. It’s important that the teacher tells the students that this is a place to share any struggles they have or anything they think the teacher should know to remind them what kind of information they can provide. This process might seem a bit pointless and just asking the kids may sound like the easier option. But, speaking from the point of view of a student who grew up with Tourette Syndrome, which was often misunderstood and stigmatized by the world around me, writing it down on paper first could have been an easier way to get the conversation started. For some, it’s much easier to “rip the bandaid off” by writing it down rather than saying it outloud or having to watch another person’s face while explaining themselves.
It can be difficult for a child or young adult to find the right words to say out loud and this method would erase that fear. If students want to go into more detail they can, but they don’t ever have to. It’s up to the educator to figure out the best course of action after those thoughts and facts are shared, but that will be something that they can work on together. Because having that relationship and that mutual respect will provide so much and help the student want to come to class and know that they are safe there.
The safest classrooms I ever entered were the ones where the teacher knew the real me. They asked questions when I shared about my disability such as “how can I help?” and that simple little question let me know they cared and I was allowed to be myself there. That allowed my fears and stress to melt away which helped me focus more, feel less stressed, and ultimately enjoy the class more. I wanted to show them that it made a difference and I was willing to give them that mutual respect they gave me.
I’m a firm believer that It’s those simple questions that are always the most important. It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture, sometimes all a kid needs is knowing that someone cares no matter what the topic is about.
About the Author
Twitter: @oneticatatime - https://twitter.com/home
Instagram: @_britneywolf - https://www.instagram.com/_britneywolf/
Bio: Britney Wolf is a passionate advocate in the Tourette Syndrome Community. She believes that the proper representation will only come by speaking up about what it’s like to live a life without control over her body. She’s not afraid to make people think about the way they speak and act around those with disabilities and is determined to make a positive change in every aspect of life.
Book Description: Ticcing My Way Through Life is a book about the ups and downs of living with the misunderstood disorder of Tourette Syndrome. I share my real life experiences while providing education surrounding the disorder and how the audience can become allies. It will help teachers, employers, and those in and outside of Tourette Syndrome by teaching them how little moments of respect, empathy, and understanding can make a huge difference.