“Get out! We don’t do that in this room!”
Sadly, you can imagine these words in any classroom in America.
It’s a trope and real life all at once; the adult who checks out when things get tough. The absent father, sure. Other times the absent mother. Estranged brothers or awkward aunts and uncles abound. Leaving is easy. Just go.
I am not a psychologist and I don’t play one on TV or even in an advice column. The inability to articulate or name our needs may cause us to push others away. Self-sabotage. “Just…go.” Leaving is easy.
This has happened every year inside my classroom.
I see the wheels turning in the student’s mind. I can almost hear his voice: “This is going to be impossible. Everyone will know I can’t do it. They. Will. Know! My face feels hot.”
Student behavior: “I ain’t doin this stupid work!” Physically the student may move from their seat and act aggressively. The student might distract others with jokes.
“Just let me go!” Because leaving is easy. Easier than being exposed.
Their expression and demeanor says: “Nobody notices me. I had a question that never got answered. No one ever tells me ‘Good Job!”
Student behavior: “I need outta here or I’m gonna blow! I need to go see [other adult in the building]. You’re a [ inappropriate name].” Other physical behaviors may follow.
“JUST GO!” Because it’s easier?
A student finds solace in these interventions only to find the return to the classroom brings more confusion; like starting a book at Chapter 8. “What’s happening?” This induces stress, furthering the cycle.
“Should I go?” [Leaving would be easier]
As a practitioner, I am not nailing it in regards to the above but I know this: The classroom community is the place where independence can happen. It’s the place where trial and error can lead to understanding. It’s the place where helpful classmates can cheer you on. This is where the learning happens. And it doesn’t happen if you are out of class.
Leaving the room is not an option for very many things at all; We have to work through it together. “Can I go?” The student asks. “I’d like you to stay. Let’s figure this out.”
It is tougher to stick around. I hope we can encourage our students to physically stick with as we mentally stand beside them as they figure it out. These days have been tough and our reserves are low. Many have to dig deep to stay in it, to not retreat.
I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today. I need to learn how to say your last words a little bit more. Thank you.
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There’s hope in these last words: “I’d like you to stay. Let’s figure this out.”
Together. Together we can make this work. Together we are better. Together we can solve any problem. Together!
You bring up so many important points here. And the way you wrote this piece has me thinking differently about a really common “out” in my third grade classroom and that’s, “I have to go to the bathroom”. It’s such a tough call because to say no can lead to problems but so does saying yes too easily. Now I’m rethinking the whole scene because it is the same few kids that need out all the time and out actually causes more problems than in! Thank you for helping me to rethink an old thing!