I am a middle school counselor. That is right. I work with a very challenging age group and I love it! I also get to teach an advisory class each day, which is a class of 27 students. Not just any 27 students. My class is quite the mix of kids. I have a rough and rowdy group of about 8 boys who are the picture of insensitivity. They don't mean to be. I honestly think they just don't think about it. I have a group of "cliquey" girls, 2 self-proclaimed loners, some very high-achieving academic types, and then many in between. Even though there is a quite a variety of kids, they are all amazing in their own way.
All year I have been wanting to show them this youtube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iSlok6muY0 However, I have been putting it off for several reasons. Number one, I can't seem to watch it without crying. And something about crying in front of 27 of my students does not appeal to me. I picture me wiping away tears as they look at me with that "whatever" attitude that only middle schoolers can do. And although in reality I know that wouldn't be their response, I still prefer not to cry in the classroom. The other reason that I had put it off is that I wanted it to be the perfect lesson. I wanted to combine it with great discussion and activities.
Each month we have different themes. January's theme was "thoughtful / respectful". I decided that it would be the perfect month to introduce this video and lesson around the "R" word. The "R" word is used often at this age, and I truly believe it is because they are not aware of the negative impact it has. Well, yesterday was the last day of the month and I had finished my "perfect" lesson plan and decided to do it!
I was a teacher for 6 years before becoming a counselor, so I have been in front of kids for the past 12 years. I love being with kids in the classroom and I never get nervous teaching a lesson. Not the case yesterday. I had the jitters. I was excited and nervous. How would they react? How would I react if they didn't react like I wanted them to? What if they reacted badly to my reaction of their non-reaction?!?!?
I began my pre-video discussion with some reflection questions for them. Already one of my "wild boys" stifled a laugh into his sleeve. I snapped. This is not the day to mess with me. I explained to him very loudly and with that teacher scowl on my face that this topic is very serious. If he could not handle it, I invited him to go spend the class in the office with the vice-principal. Now they know I am serious, because I don't send kids out of my classroom. I am pretty sure there was smoke coming out of my ears.
We had a good discussion. At the end of the discussion I shared with the class that this topic is very personal to me because I have a son with cerebral palsy. I put a picture of my sweet little man up one the screen and asked them if they would call him the "R" word.
No response. I started the video. Now I am thinking, where do I stand. Should I go to the back of the room so they can't see the tears in my eyes? Should I step out into the hall? No. I stayed right where I was in the front and to the side and watched the video as I silently prayed not to cry.
The video was done. I turned off the computer and there we sat, still in the dark, In. Complete. Silence. That's right, my class who is NEVER quiet - was silent. I finally asked someone to turn the lights on. There were a few girls who had tears on their cheeks.
In my "perfect lesson" I had great follow-up discussion questions and an activity. Not needed. I asked for thoughts or comments instead. It was still quiet. I just let us sit in this silence for a while. Then before the end of the period I shared with them some ideas about how we can end the use of the "R" word. I also shared with them some great ideas that I had gotten from other moms with children with cp on how to treat their kids.
Our theme for February is "Diversity" so you can bet that I will be incorporating people who are differently-abled. I am sure that I will toil over making a "perfect" lesson again. However, I have come to realize that less is sometimes more on these types of days. There is nothing more powerful than sitting with a group of young teenagers...in silence.