There's a lot of noise in our classrooms. No, I'm not referring to student chatter. As an ESOL teacher, I frequently encourage my students to speak up, and enjoy tuning in to the conversations I hear in both English and Spanish. However, I realized recently that I wasn't listening. Not REALLY. All too often, I have my own agenda, and I plow forward sometimes with bulldozer-like precision. I help my kids master new vocabulary ~ Check. I help my kids comprehend a story that they need to know ~ Double Check. Those things are super important too, don't get me wrong, but sometimes a student shows up on our roster that is on a totally different frequency.
I had a third grade student who was constantly "disrupting" my class. We'll call him "G." G's classmates and I were always shushing him while he was rapping, and singing popular music under his breath while doing his work. I had been warned that G had a lot of anger issues, and didn't always get along with with his teachers and peers. One day, while I was watching my students working collaboratively (as well as G frustratedly shoving his graphic organizer and pencil across the table), I really NOTICED his musical ability. That's when the shift started. Instead of trying to look at the story we were focusing on from my perspective, which was boring as heck, I turned it into a rap. "Mornin', Friends! Check THIS beat. I'm gonna tell ya 'bout my Castle on Viola Street... ." Seeing G's face light up was absolutely priceless. After I taught my kids the rap, they did a cloze activity, where they had to fill in the blanks. They could rap while they wrote for maximum recall. I had never seen G write like that before! He truly shined, and rapped his work back to me with the biggest-smile-ever on his face. He even went back to his regular classroom that day and proudly rapped his work for his peers and teacher there as well.
That experience had a profound impact on me as a teacher. I'm more aware now to look beyond the noise, the disruptions, the frustrations, and really pay attention to what my students are telling me that they need. You may have a kid constantly jumping up out of their seat who is a brilliant dancer!
Groove with it.