When In Doubt Personalize

These last few days have gone so-s0. Today, I really decided to go after it with some of my classes. Last night, I took a look at Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and I was reminded again of how much people really like to talk about what they like. They don’t care about what I think is funny, they care about what they think is funny. Well, I decided to take my questionnaires to the battlefield with my backward planning sheets and it really worked. The combination of the two really helped to pull this week out of the ditch. But the whole reason why I did it was because of one kid I have in my afternoon class.

“J” is an interesting student. He is very capable and also very creative. Most of the time”J” uses his creativity to put down others. He does this because he is very self-conscious and has low self-esteem. He covers up for it by putting on an image that promotes being tough. He is an interesting case because he doesn’t like getting positive attention. He thrives on negative attention because that is the image he has created for school. At least, that is my analysis. I have found that it is important to try and see things from the student’s perspective rather than just label them as a problem. I need to ask myself, “What is behind this problem and why do they feel a need to act this way?” Perhaps if we view our students in this light we will be able to reach them rather than despise them.

Well, I decided to personalize “J” today and see what would happen. With courage I took a step closer to him and constantly told myself, “Don’t be upset if it blows up in your face. Don’t worry about it.” This is not an easy thing  for a teacher to do because it requires that we see our problem students as people. It wasn’t perfect, but I think that we took a step closer to creating a different image for him in class. I could see that inside he really liked that he was the one we talked about all class long. Even the quiz had his name all over it and there is something powerful about kindly saying someone’s name — it’s the sweetest sound to that person.

Today was such a good reminder that ultimately students want to talk about things they like.  But more than that, they want to be successful and important. It was also a reminder that if I am ever in doubt about a class that is starting to sink, personalizing will keep it afloat and bring a vitality to your class that is uncommon in education today. If we can fuse this together with CI, we have an unbeatable combination for acquiring language.

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1 Comment

Filed under Encouragement for hard days, Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries

One response to “When In Doubt Personalize

  1. angela ford

    I can TOTALLY identify with your story. I had a SUPER shy boy in my class who never spoke to anyone. So, we created a story about him and how he had the most perfect hair in the world that everyone wanted. I think he was almost like a celebrity in my class after that. I saw such amazing changes in my class. It’s all about raising the self esteem!

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