I managed to clear my schedule a bit so I could hold another lunch bunch that isn't focused on meeting IEP goals and could just be for those third graders who for whatever reason want to eat with a teacher. Most of the kids that ask are boys and their desire to give up a lunch with friends surprised me. Developing positive relationships with kids is important and the more adults they feel comfortable with the more they feel like they belong in school. So why not have a just because lunch bunch?
We have been talking and planning our lunch bunch for weeks. Now that it is finally here one of the boys keeps asking, "For real? What did I do?"
I was confused. The kid has asked me daily for the lunch bunch and when we had a misunderstanding about the day and time he was genuinely upset. So now he wanted to know what he did.
"I mean, did I go up a level or something" he asked.
"A level, what do you mean" I was still confused.
"Like, in reading. I'm a level 14. Did I go up?"
I explained it was just because. It had nothing to do with hard work, it was just because he'd asked and so I listened.
I understand how powerful incentives can be for hard work, and I love that incentives can be lunch with a teacher instead of a tangible prize. But part of my heart broke because the boy could not understand that he could have time with a teacher just because. He is a valuable part of the school, with or without moving up levels. In fact, kids might be incentivized to work hard because of our relationships with them that are developed unrelated to their performance.
We obviously need both types of lunch bunches with kids in school. But we can't just use time with us as an incentive. We also have to be there for those "just because" times so we can develop true relationships with kids that make them feel like they belong as a part of our community.
I love non-inentive based time with students. Regargless of whether a student is in the office or has behavioral/academic needs, I try to maintain my individual, group, and lunch schedules. This way, they get time with me and it is not dependent on anything else. Our mentor program works the same way. It is not a reward or punishment. Even if you are a student "in trouble" your mentor can still get you. The only time I have seen an exception to this is for suspension. Clearly if you are not in the building you can't have teacher time. Positive support is so important and can teach a child self-worth that he or she may otherwise be lacking.
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