Classroom, Education, High School, Middle School, Secondary ELA, student needs, Teaching, Teaching tools, Texas

The Importance of Air: Are Your Students Getting What They Need?

Right now I’m sitting in my dining room, facing the television, writing this post. Sounds like a fairly pleasant morning, right? Well, factor in the fact that the A/C stopped working yesterday afternoon, and it makes what would have been a great morning an experience that you just have to bear until the repairman can get here. Which should be this afternoon. Ugh.

Air conditioning is a necessity in the south. I know there are places in this country where A/C is a nice thing to have, or you have it but don’t use it…well, here in Texas, people actually die from heat-related deaths.

Now, I’m nowhere near death. And if I really wanted to, I could pack up the kids and head to a hotel to get some relief. I can bear this inconvenience until the repairman does get here, mostly because I know I don’t have to.

What about our students? Do they have “A/C”? Their A/C might be food. Could be love. Maybe they need a safe place to sleep.

My point is: do they have what they NEED?

I read the quote above for the first time about a month before school ended. It won’t leave my brain. I’ve heard, “It takes a village to raise a child” more times than I can count, and as a teacher, I truly believe in that statement. I never considered the actions of a child that doesn’t feel loved by that village.

Full disclosure: I am known as a “hard teacher” at my school. You know, the one who makes kids follow all the rules, all the time. The one who gives challenging assignments and actually expects them to be turned in. On time. *gasp* My boundaries are very clear from day one, and they don’t change. They apply to every student. Period. Kids don’t hang out in my room. If they are there, it’s because they have a question or they need extra tutorial help. In short, my students would never mistake me for a friend. I’m also very polarizing. Students either love me or hate me, there isn’t really any in-between. I’ve known this about myself for years, and I know that there isn’t a person alive that is loved by everyone. It took me awhile to not take it personally, but I get better at it every year.

That being said, I know that my class needs to be a place where students feel they can ask for help. I keep extra snacks in my room, money in my lunch account for those kids who run out, and I have a mailbox in my room where kids can leave notes letting me know if there is anything I can help them with, school-related or otherwise. I have bought hoodies for kids who don’t have jackets for the winter, and I have hugged kids whose electricity was turned off the night before.

Great, right? Sounds good anyway. But in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have much patience for misbehavior or disrespect. I lose my cool sometimes when kids are outright defiant. I’m notorious for my “look” when kids are misbehaving, and the younger kids in my school give my room a wide berth sometimes because they know I don’t “put up with nonsense”.

Sounds great for classroom management, but it doesn’t really leave room for those kids who are acting out because everything besides their own behavior is out of their control. It doesn’t account for a kid that talks back because their anxiety manifests as anger. It gives no grace to the kid who doesn’t answer my question due to crippling shyness, not disrespect. It also doesn’t love the kid who acts out to get attention, any kind of attention, from an adult in their life.

I need air. My air, right now, comes in the form of actual air from the A/C, and I’m not getting it. Some days my “air” is quiet time to think. Sometimes it’s a hug from my husband at the end of a long day.

When I don’t get air, I call a repairman. I’m an adult, so I know what to do (usually) to fix the issue. Our students don’t always know how to get the air that they need in whatever form it takes, so we need to pay attention.