So on this day, I was standing before my 7th grade class, a marker in hand and a wide smile on my face. Pointing to the board, I explained our daily routine while waiting for the kids to take out their notebooks and fill in their journal entry for the day. But my approach was met with a mournful look. So I decided to try a bit of drama; flailing my hands and reading out the prompt in a loud voice. A more painful silence. I took one quick glance at my students, eye to eye and they all seemed to be saying one thing: WE ARE NOT ENTERTAINED. I tried a few jokes and I managed to squeeze out the driest laughter ever from a few of them. I felt that was manageable and went on with my class. But few minutes after, I paused and looked at them, asking for like the hundredth time: Guys, is everything alright? Did someone die? Why you all looking like we’re in a funeral? Reluctant responses of ‘Nothing’ here and there and even longer faces. I knew I had to do something and so I wiped the board clean and wrote in the biggest font ever, WHY IS EVERYONE SO SAD? They wouldn’t speak up, and I told them I wouldn’t continue with the class if they didn’t talk to me. One by one, the students shared what was bothering them: parents, family, school, other teachers, classmates and ME. 🤣
They were all tired because something happened that day in school that reminded them of how ‘inadequate’ everyone thinks they are and how ‘overworked’ they feel. I gave them over forty minutes of my class, listening, advising and listening some more. At the end, I asked everyone to take a deep breath because they talked for so long, it felt like they were going to lose their voice and a girl was almost crying. They took a deep breath and then gave me individual hugs and a group hug. They said I should be like their full time therapist and maybe start our own Dr Phil Show in the class with cushions where they can stretch while talking about their problems. I was relieved seeing their spirits return and when the kids turned the table by asking me if I had anything I wanted to share with them too, I wasn’t ready. 😂
But yeah, the kids said it was their best English class ever and even though we learnt nothing about literary devices, essays and grammar, I think it was my best class ever too. Because more important than academics or anything else, is a child’s healthy state of mind and body. Nothing can work without those. Moral of the story: listen to your students’ words and silence.