In my last week of teaching at NorthStar, I shook each learner’s hand and asked them their names as they entered. It was remarkable the difference it made in our class dynamics. Just meeting each person at the door, shaking their hand and looking into their eyes allowed me to connect with them.
One of the learners would not shake my hand and tried to walk around me. I would not allow it so Jayden finally gave in and shook my hand but wouldn’t look me in the eye. I figured that we were starting to connect. Later in our time together, he shouted at me that I wasn’t his teacher and he didn’t have to listen to me, he didn’t have to follow my rules.
After class one day, the Director stopped by to chat. She was wondering why so many of my students are asked to leave the classroom. It was a method I adopted after the advisors were not helping with disruptions, I asked the learners to leave until they were ready to engage. Hana explained that their leaving the class is seen as a huge move towards being expelled from the program. I was not interested in this strong of a message.
Hana also said that she’s had to break apart fights at high schools where the teacher is just standing by, uninterested in getting involved. For some of these kids, NorthStar is the safest environment they experience in their entire day. Safer than home, than school, than the streets. She encouraged me to teach to these disruptive behaviors. This is more new learning for me. I told her about Jayden expressing himself and she said he should be asked to leave but there was something I needed to know about Jayden. He has a special qualifier because he can’t read above the 1st grade level.
So, the next day, I tried a new tact. Bribery with fruit snacks. It worked. Jayden worked hard to get 5 fruit snacks, more than anyone in the class. It was wonderful to watch him shine.
He hugged me before he left.
On Friday, Jayden was expelled from the program.
Today, I am finished with the program and am left feeling empty.