It always happens this way, doesn't it? It's the end of a long, trying week and in walks an evaluator. This was a few weeks ago.
Here's the breakdown of what she saw:
- 4 kids were engaged
- 1 kid was sort of engaged
- 1 kid had no idea what was happening
- 1 kid has his phone out, doing who knows what.
Behind the scenes:
I have my hands full with 8 kids. It sounds ridiculous. It's true. Half of the class is in the school behavior program. The majority of the class failed the state exit exam last year. Algebra 2 is hard anyway, but it's really, really hard for these kids.
Once my observation was over, the anxiety kicked in- hard core. I couldn't eat my lunch. I was shaking. I dry heaved a bunch. I had already had been fighting constant nausea from a likely developing ulcer. My evaluator asked me if I wanted to meet for my post-observation conference at the end of the day or on Monday. No brainer.
"I can meet today."
There are a million ways to spin every observation. First, she focused on all of the things that went right during the observation. My evaluator could have focused on the phone and the fact that not all students were engaged, but she knows that we give our entire beings to our profession and that starting with bad news is crushing. Instead, she focused on giving me really, really good advice that I had never heard and that I will never forget. She's amazing.
One tip for really hard students.
During our conference, my evaluator focused on the student who had his phone out. Looking back, I think she identified him as the one who could tip the class either way. Her advice?
"Call home when he has a good day. Make a big deal of it. It will go a long way."
She told me that I might have to wait a while, but that as soon as he had a good day, to jump on the opportunity and make a huge deal of it. As it turned out, I didn't need to wait long. The next day he completed a small quiz and scored a 100%.
Oh it was on!
I called home and left a message. I emailed a photo of his graded and stickered quiz to his liaison, his behavior specialist, the head of the behavior program and, of course, my evaluator with a thank you. The next day things started to change. Not just with him. Things started to change with everyone.
He did work the next day. And the next. This was a few weeks ago. The other kids are working now too. I can't tell you how good it feels.
Today I cranked it up a notch and told him that he has arrived and that he doesn't need so much of my help anymore. We'll see how that goes.
Then I gave him this note. I addressed it to him and signed it with my name. Sure I could have just told him this, but things are more special in writing.
I'm starting to actually look forward to this class and I feel like an absolute mad woman typing that. But it's true. And it feels really, really good.