May 10 – the quirky ones

290/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Left of center.  I’ve heard that about me.  I’ve also heard that about some of the students that I have taught over the years.  I have never taken it as an insult.  I am proud to be far from the norm – yes, as a child I longed to be in the center but got so used to being on the outside that I made it all mine and shifted the view of what center was.  Throughout my career, I have taught those kids who are left of center.  I see myself in them.  I want to be their advocate but more than that, I want them to have a place in my classroom.  I didn’t have that and that’s one of the main reasons why I went into teaching – to make the difference for someone that was rarely extended to me.  I was reminded of that today.  I have had a student in my classes for the last three years.  He is not “special” in that sense of the word but he is different.  He can read social cues but chooses to ignore them.  He participates and is opinionated and says things that at times don’t make traditional sense to the chagrin of his classmates.  I allow him to express himself as there is insight behind his observations but at times, even for myself as teacher, it is draining but I am reminded that everyone has the right to feel a part of the classroom.  Yes, today he took it in a different direction and the dynamic shifted quite quickly but I was cognizant that I had to ensure that his feelings were respected as well as those of others in the class.  It was a difficult task but students like this one are what keep teachers on their toes always thinking a few steps ahead.  I knew which action NOT to take – shut him down completely, reprimand him, talk down to him – those options are limitless but as I noticed him becoming aware of what was going on in the classroom, he started to get embarrassed and withdrew especially because I interjected by telling him to stop as the conversation started to devolve and fellow students were getting riled up.  I knew I had made a mistake in that moment for him and I took it upon myself to find him during lunch to no avail and eventually had a heart to heart after school giving him encouragement, talking about the positives over the last three years but also respecting perspectives of others.  In the end, given his intelligence he was able to understand what I was getting at and I also understood the point he was trying to make – life lesson for both him and myself. Yes, today was a day with a not so great teaching moment but more importantly it was a learning experience.   I have all sorts of students and usually the focus is on the easy ones but the quirky, out there ones are the reason why I went into teaching and those are the students I need to be reminded about as those are the ones that may relate to me and I could make a difference for.

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