I’m obviously not an expert at this teaching thing yet, but I can read a room.
My classes have been taking a pre-assessment (in total silence) for the last three days, and when I saw frustration and sadness radiating out of the desks, I read the room correctly. Yesterday, I had planned to end each pre-assessment early and teach a lesson about transitions. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Instead, we played Two Truths One Lie, an activity designed to get to know each other a little bit better. I used a pretty basic excuse – “I’m still getting to know you, and you’re still getting to know each other, so we should have more activities like this to feel comfortable in the classroom” – but really, I just couldn’t teach them. They needed time to breathe. So I gave them two truths about myself, that I lived in Mexico and I’m obsessed with dogs, and one lie, that Taylor Swift is my all-time favorite artist. Naturally, they all guessed I lied about living in Mexico (I am pretty white, so that’s fair) and thought I was telling the truth about Taylor Swift (again, pretty white, so that’s fair) and I got a few laughs out of each class. When they turned to their groups to play the game amongst themselves, I then had the opportunity to get to know them more, joke with some students a bit, and capitalize on my obsession with dogs by figuring out every student who had a dog and could bring me photos of said dogs.
Academically, it was probably not the best decision. For my classroom, it was the better decision that day. Students who did not seem to like me or my classroom at all (repeat: at all) opened up a bit and talked to me about their brothers, or their videogames, or whatever else. Students stayed after class to show me photos of their dogs, which I will never complain about. Long story short, I learned the same lesson that I spent all of last year learning: they’re just kids, and I need to remember that, and sometimes I need to just let them be kids, even if it’s for ten minutes at the end of a pretty boring test that they have to take. It’s not something that will happen every day, but if it’s something that happens every once in a while, I may find more students okay about walking into my classroom.