What is so wonderful and simultaneously exhausting about them (like many of my 7th and 8th grade classes last year) is that they come to class every day with so much energy and enthusiasm! It is hard for me, as an educator who values the importance of student-to-teacher connection, to simply squash that down with my big heavy ruler.
Every day I ask them a question from my book of "If..." Being 9th graders, who are not far from middle school mentality, they love questions that have anything to do with food. A big favorite was, "If you could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of your life, which would you choose?" This question was great because a few students who have been shy so far this year even wanted to get in on that one. It's a small victory for me when I can see a hand raised from a student who is generally very quiet, even if it's not academically related.
So these kids come to my class so happy to be there. They beg me for an "If" question every day, and they bombard me with questions about high school or stories about their weekend. When I can finally wrangle them in, they do a nice job of channeling their energy in to the story we are reading or the activity we are doing (with a few dozen nudges by me to get them back on track).
This particular loud, rambunctious class also happened to be the class my principal happened to choose for one of her random "pop ins." As soon as I saw her walk in to my room and sneakily slide in to a back seat, my heart plummeted. Oh dear God, I thought, please let them stay focused.
Upon seeing the principal, my students suddenly straightened in their desks. Hands flew in to the air rather than answers shouted out. Kids who normally derail the class stayed focus. It was perplexing...
When she left, the kids relaxed, and resumed their normal excited, bantering, casual class behavior. I silently thanked them for making me look good, wondering if they had even understood the observation was of me, not of them.
I wonder if that is one of the great benefits of taking the time to create a connection with your students. If you give them the respect and attention they need, they will in turn respect you right back. I have always believed that creating a bond can be an essential step in the educational process, at least with high schoolers. No, I am not trying to be "friends" with my students, but I am taking the 5 minutes necessary out of my class to ask students about their lives, their friends, their games, their weekends. I'm convinced that students will take, or respectfully fake, an interest in what I am teaching if I take an interest in them.
And like I said, while they do often leave me with a throbbing headache, they do make me smile every day. Especially last Friday when, after lunch, they turned off all the lights to my classroom, closed the door, hid under their desks, and yelled "surprise!" when I opened the door.
Ohhh freshmen! :-)