In this photo are two of my students. The one on the left is clearly awesome: look at her shirt. The one on the right is Jimi (Jee-Mee), one of my favourites.
This is my second year with Jimi, and she is one student who has mostly stood out from many of the other students – but not always for the right reasons.
Last year started off fine, with Jimi being like all the other students, new to high school and willing to pay attention. Jimi’s class on Thursday morning, class 1-6, was mostly a good class as well. As we moved to the end of the year though, things started to slowly change with that class: students were responding less and acting out more in general than the other first grade classes.
Particularly one group in the class was bad – they sat at the back and really didn’t pay any attention to me. It wasn’t a subtle either, they blatantly would turn their backs to me and not pay attention. My co-teacher would tell them to turn around, they would for a minute and then were back at it. When I said something, they basically shrugged me right off like I wasn’t even there. This was my first time dealing with this, and to be honest I had really no idea how to deal with it.
Jimi was one of the girls in this group, and one day, she wasn’t in class for some reason. That 50 minute period was perfect. The girls in her group were great, paying attention and being good students. I’d also figured things out, I’d just move Jimi away from them and it’d be fine. The next week, I moved Jimi to another group. She made a fuss about it, got angry and that was that. Somehow she and the entire new group didn’t pay attention to me. It turned out to be a horrible class and I officially had no idea how to deal with it.
Luckily for me, the year was ending and that was that. Then, I made my decision to re-sign, which also meant Jimi for another year.
I didn’t mention one important thing about all this: that whole first year I didn’t know her name.
As I mentioned in my last post about Being a Teacher, this year I gave all my students name tags. Jimi had to make one that first class of 2nd grade, so she put her hand up. I came over, and she said “How.. Spell… Name… Jimi?”. I showed her two ways, “Jimi” and “Jee-Mee”. She went with Jimi, said thank you and that was that. That day, I spoke to her a few more times by addressing her with “Jimi”. As it turns out, she really likes being called by her name.
Without me asking her, she comes in and sits at the front of my class. The moment she doesn’t pay attention, I just say “Jimi” nicely, she turns around, smiles and says sorry. She’s one of the most popular girls in her grade, and in class when she is on my side the rest of the class follows her. I actually get excited when 11:40 on Friday rolls around and I have Jimi’s class. She really is a lovely girl, and now one of my favourite students.
I’ve now learned this, and it works instantly in other classes as well. Learn the troublemakers names, get them paying attention and the rest of the class follows. One day, maybe I’ll thank Jimi. She has no idea how much she’s taught me about being a teacher.