So, the bookshelves in my classroom when I’d started that had been almost bare were now overflowing. The kids all had book boxes, there was a system set up so they could check out books from me and take them home, and the extra books were falling out of their desks.
Someone had even donated a couch and dad had given me a couple of rugs and lamps, so the class library was really inviting.
I was feeling pretty smug.
Well, kiiiind of smug. But I couldn’t completely enjoy my smugness because there was a little thought nagging at me, and try as I might, I could not get it to quiet down! The thing was, we’d had the books for more than two weeks . . . but my keen ears had yet to detect any chatter about literature. Talk rotated more around the popular TV show or the boy band that was big that year.
And if I know anything about people who love books, well, they usually spend some time talking about the great books they’re reading.
I began to think that perhaps there was more to this case than I’d thought at first glance . . .
An Unexpected Clue
At that time we were doing DEAR in class. The acronym stands for Drop Everything and Read. The theory behind it is when kids see people reading, it makes them want to read.
In schools that adopt the program, EVERYBODY stops and reads for 20 minutes every day. And it don’t just mean every student, I mean everyone from the principal to the custodian to the cafeteria staff. My school hadn’t adopted it, but a couple of my professors raved about it so I was trying it out.
I waited until DEAR, pulled out the latest novel I was reading as the kids pulled out their books. I sat down and opened my book, just like usual.
But instead of following the words on the page, my eyes darted back and forth between the book and my kids.
I noticed something slightly disturbing…
As I leaned forward, I saw a startling development: their eyes were doing the same thing as mine! They weren’t reading!
My little wise heads were going through the motions…and pulling the wool over the eyes of their new teacher!
I’m not proud, of what I felt, but I’ll be honest with you, I felt really angry! Do you get it? I had spent so much time, and put in so much effort into getting these books in the classroom, and I felt like they weren’t even appreciating my efforts!
And I felt like an easy mark. Why had I wasted all of this time and energy bringing books into this classroom when they were still avoiding reading, but in a sneaky way?
My immediate response was frustration.
I wanted to yell!
I wanted to bench them!
(I cringe now when I remember how little I understood the motivations behind kid’s actions back then! Or (seriously, benching?) the things I wanted to do when I felt frustrated!
But, luckily, I channeled my inner Nancy Drew (that woman was always so calm-even when there were lives on the line!), took a breath, and reminded that this case was still open.
Takeaway Tip: Sometimes when we think we’ve figured it all out, especially when we’re certain, we need to stop and examine the evidence to know if we’ve solved the case. Oh! And since those are the times that it’s easy to feel frustration building it might help to channel good ol’ Nancy. She sometimes helps me feel a bit calmer. Unless she doesn’t . . . which is when it’s good to be able to call a trusty sidekick to offer you some well-deserved empathy. Bess and George gave Nancy that extra oomph!
Invitation: Would love to hear about a time you thought a case was closed and how you discovered it wasn’t. Or about a time you wanted to blow your top when you felt unappreciated. Or a stakeout. Who doesn’t love hearing about a good stakeout?
Melissa is the founder of Tandem Teaching and teaches in the inner-city. She blogs weekly about tips parents can implement to enhance their connection with their children and ways to bring out their children’s inherent gifts. Contact her for a private consulting session.