Don't Ask

Sometimes when you're trying to get to the bottom of drama between kids, it's better not to ask. You end up opening such a can of worms, that you develop a new found appreciation for the saying, "Ignorance is bliss." Today I tried to get to the bottom of some issues one of my girls was having. She was openly arguing with Lil Miss Meltdown and her mom told me after school that she'd been asking to change schools for a few days now, because apparently all the kids are picking on her. This girl is incredibly bright, and so I immediately assumed she was a target for her unintentional "know-it-all" persona. So, inside I went to confer with some of the girls who stay after school for basketball.

"Do you girls have any ideas why people are bothering ---?" I naively asked. Three of the four girls proceeded to tell me a litany of slights and offenses, large and small, that --- had committed. Some of these things I convinced the girls were not worth their outrage, but the problem is when you ask students' for insight in situations like this, they often just let loose a barrage of tattling. So I got to hear all about this girl's habit of passing notes, name calling, foul language, bossing other students around, and on and on. More disturbing than the shattered illusion I had of this nice girl, was the reminder of how much I miss in my classroom.

I like to think a lot of the drama between my students occurs during the lunch hour. And to a certain extent this is true. Unfortunately, every time I am writing on the board, working in a guided group, or conferring with a student I am basically oblivious to all sorts of problems. Kids pass notes, throw erasers or show each other (or me) the finger, just to name a few.

In a December New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell about finding effective teachers he described one of the primary characteristics as something called withitness, an ability to identify and suppress misbehavior efficiently, aka eyes in the back of your head. When I hear stories like today's from my students, I worry about my own withitness, and how much I'm missing around me to the detriment of my students.


Ms. Peace said…
Even as a first grade teacher, I have been struggling to keep order among my students. I am strict, structured, and no-nonsense, in the classroom, but when my students go to lunch and recess, it is absolute CHAOS. I have students choking other kids, showing their private parts to each other, touching each other inappropriately, stealing, throwing food, punching others in the face so hard their noses bleed. It has gotten to the point where I don't want to take them to lunch anymore. I wish I could feed them in the room and take them out to play myself. They need serious levels of "withitness" and they are not getting it from the recess aides.

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