This week it was business as usual. The schedule was the same as it had been for the whole time I had been going to the school but as it is when one works with students, it was also very different and for me, it tied into different ways of knowing. During the day, two of the children who tend to demand more love and attention did not want to listen to anyone. Normally during the day, there are silent reading periods and Clayton and I are immediately snatched up by the students to read with. We’ll go into the hall and either read to them or they will read to us. As time has gone on we’ve gained a whole group of kids that we’ll read with at once. To them, it is a privilege to read with us. At this point, I had yet to have a problem when we were out reading in the hall. Today, however, it was really hard to get the students to show respect and to focus on reading. I found myself a little bewildered because I wasn’t sure what caused it. I started to think about one of the kids in the reading group who I’ll name Darcy for this blog. Darcy was reading at a very low level – almost kindergarten level even though she’s in grade 3. The other two in the group were at a medium to an extremely high reading group (one of the girls, who I’ll name Jane because she comes in later in the post, was currently focussing on the Twilight series). I started to realize that Darcy may feel embarrassed about her lower level and so she didn’t want to read in front of the group. Instead, she might have been disrespectful as a joke in order to cover her lower reading skills. It reminded me that levels of knowledge are extremely complex and that the way children act is motivated by a wide variety of things. During spelling, I found Darcy and checked on her. She says that she can’t spell and often I notice she’ll give up before she even tries. I told her that learning is made by steps and practice and that everyone is working on learning something in life. I told her that I’m learning how to cook but more often than naught I burn the food I’m trying to make. She said that she can cook and I told her that she must be further on in the skill I’m working to be at just like others may be with her and schoolwork. After this, we worked one-on-one with her spelling.
This idea that I don’t know the situation fully presented itself again later on. It was group reading and this time they were assigned to their groups according to their reading level. I ended up with Jane and another girl – both were at the highest level in the class. I chose to sit there because Jane was calling out the other girl and making fun of her reading strategy. While I sat there the two bickered and picked at each other’s flaws. I found myself sympathizing with the girl who was trying to read and so I continuously told Jane she needed to stop and let the first read. Eventually, Jane rose up and walked away without explanation. She walked into the classroom and then she left it and walked to the boot room down the hall. This is more normal behaviour for jane, but I checked with Mr. Bali to see if he had given permission for her to leave the classroom. He said he hadn’t and I asked if it would be okay if I send Jane to read alone in the class, as, she wasn’t showing respect and both I and Mr. Bali had asked her to stop multiple times. Jane is VERY sociable so this would not be a reward for her. He agreed and so when Jane returned saying she went to get a kleenex from the boot room, I asked her to take her book and read silently in the class. She got mad but I held my ground and then suddenly she began to cry. I was completely at a loss, I hadn’t expected this response from her. Mr. Bali came to check the situation and he asked her if she wanted to go to the office. She said she did and then became unresponsive and refused to talk to anyone. The other girl began to escalate the situation by teasing her so I took the girl into the classroom to read with me while Mr. Bali dealt with Jane. As we read Mr. Bali approached the other girl and asked her if she had hit Jane. Immediately the girl’s demeanour changed and she became defensive saying that she didn’t do it on purpose. Again, a situation that had seemed so clear to me, in the beginning, became infinitely more complex. When Jane returned, they took a break from each other and remained separated.
I was really concerned that I had made Jane feel like she was helpless in a situation and that she couldn’t trust the people in charge to be just – because I had singled her out and indirectly took the other girl’s side even though she wasn’t innocent either. When we debriefed at the end of the morning I asked Mr.Bali if I should apologize. He said not to because although was the victim; she also wasn’t innocent and she had been disrespectful to both of us and that is what had caused the action in the beginning. My takeaway from the whole day was that ways of knowing are complex and multi-faceted. It’s hard to know everything and if you believe that you know more than the children or take issues at face-value, you may find yourself making uninformed decisions. And the hardest part of this lesson is the knowledge that I’ll very well make the mistake again and again. The beautiful part is just like I said to Darcy, we are all working to learn something and those little steps are important. The other important thing is to learn from those who have shown mastery over the subject – we are all students to each other.