All of it.
Because all of it is what makes up the whole. Looking at parts in isolation does not lead us to best ways to support our students. When we look at the surface behaviors of our students, we must ask if we are expecting from them what we do not expect from ourselves.
This teaching gig is not for the faint of heart or inflexible of mind.
I worry that so very often teachers describe what they observe in nonspecific terms, with a negative spin, and as if the kiddo is choosing to be maladaptive. That just doesn’t help any of us, does it?
I wonder how we got here, to this place where we don’t take time to understand student behaviors.
Let’s start with surface behaviors. That’s the stuff that we most easily observe in our students. I invite you to look at a surface behavior that is annoying you and instead of taking it personally and jumping to the conclusion the student is just being a pain in the ass, take a minute to really look at the behavior. Question the motive, the reason, the purpose. Would you possibly respond in similar ways?
Example. Kids sleep in class for many reasons. And I guarantee the least of all reasons is that they are just lazy. Kids are not lazy. They may have executive functioning challenges, not know how to initiate work, not understand what you want, not know where to start, not even know what questions to ask you in order to get started. They may have language processing challenges and have already listened to too much verbiage from you and the rest of the adults in their day. Some kids work so very hard to just survive a day at school that exhaustion takes over and sleep is the only way to get relief.
The best escape is sleep.
How often do you go to bed early or take an afternoon nap to escape? Remember our students have less autonomy than we do. Some have none. Maybe this student comes from a place where night sleep is interrupted repeatedly, where sleep is hard to come by, where they go to bed hungry, scared or anxious.
Too many of us have been too quick to tell kids to buck up, that no matter what else has been happening in their lives, their job is to pay attention in school.
That is just cruel. Why do we assume kids should overcome trauma and come to us every day ready to learn? We actually expect them to! Why do we expect kids to just turn off the personal to attend to the school day? Why do we expect 9 year olds to manage big feelings and shove them aside until school is over? Why do we expect kindergardeners to sit all day? Full day kindergarden is just plain harmful to many of our kids who are not ready to sit and learn to read. Why do we expect hungry wee ones to concentrate?
Why do we expect more from our students than we do from ourselves?
It’s all in the way we look at it.
Let’s look at it with compassion.