We Have Such an Opportunity

I have a student named “Larry.”  One great thing about Larry is that he is my best actor and never fails to have enthusiasm when performing for others. However, Larry is a different kind of student and not every teacher understands him. The truth about Larry is that he can be directed to do amazing things if you go about it the right way, but if you go about it the wrong way you may have a lot of problems. Larry is not a bad kid, a bully, or unintelligent. He is actually quite smart and creative, but different than most kids.

The other day, Larry walked into our class pretty upset. He had just come from the principal’s office because the teacher of the previous class doesn’t really understand Larry. Since it is gym class, Larry has to run a lot of laps because of his behavior. Now, I am not defending Larry’s behavior in gym. It’s true that he kind of runs his mouth a little too much. What I am addressing is how Larry is dealt with so that he can be as successful as possible.

As Larry entered the room it was clear that he was upset. He had been sent to the prinicipal’s office again and this time I think that Mr. Baker really laid into him. I knew Larry’s situation and I saw it as an opportunity to take Larry to a new level.

That day we were telling a story about a girl that couldn’t talk. She went to Anchorage, AK to Santa’s elves in order to get the secret medicine. As the girl travelled to different elves, none of them had the secret medicine and they kept telling her that different elves had it. It was during the storytelling process that I saw a window for Larry. The students kept suggesting names for the different elves. All quarter long, Larry had tried to suggest Peter Potter for every character, but I refused it. I was waiting for the perfect time for Peter Potter to enter one of our stories. As we were getting the names of the elves, I knew that Larry would suggest Peter Potter and I knew that this was the perfect day.

Well, the girl in the story finally went to the last elf. What was his name? Peter Potter, the most intelligent, wise, rich, and good looking elf of all. You should have seen Larry glow with pride that his answer was chosen and that he would get to act as Peter Potter. It was quite the performance!

It was at that moment that I realized what an opportunity we have. We  can change a person’s day in an instant with our stories. It is hard to deny that children of all ages have memories from their school days. Children will remember the good and the bad. Of course, they may not remember certain teachers at all. I am not sure which is worse, the bad or not being remembered at all. If we can sieze the moments of students like Larry, we don’t need to worry about making bad memories or being forgotten. We will be a part of countless good memories with our students. I can’t think of a better way to spend a career.

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3 Comments

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

3 responses to “We Have Such an Opportunity

  1. Dude this rocks. Larry is what this is all about – worth all the trainings, the nightmares, the seismic shift in our teaching consciousness. Thanks, profe.

  2. Jennie Kelly

    I like Larry already. I know what you mean about the “different” kid. I had such a moment today. One of my kids is someone whose attention wanders, who drifts not because he’s disdainful of a teacher or because he’s uninterested, but because he simply has a roving brain. Today, when I asked for volunteer actors, Josh actually raised his hand. I didn’t pick him, because everyone in class was focused on another boy who is my wordless wonder in class. The wordless wonder never says anything, but always knows exactly what’s been said and what each word means. So I chose him this time. But when it came to the part of the story where the quiet boy was to do his evil laugh, he needed some serious coaching to make it evil enough. I did my dramatic coaching effort and he still sounded mealy and ineffective. That’s when I saw Josh and remembered he’s a drummer. So I asked the class for a conductor… and Josh stuck his hand up again. I put him in front of the whole class and had everyone practice the evil laugh, “Mwa ha haaaa.” Josh took his cue and conducted the most prolonged and complex evil laugh I’ve ever witnessed, and managed to make us all do it just like the math teacher on the other side of the wall! After that, my shy actor simply watched Josh for his laughter cue, and everyone applauded. It was awesome. I love these kids, I love TPRS. I love it when I am “channeling” enough to notice the right moment for the right kid.

    Jennie

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