One lovely weekday morning I woke up bright and early and signed into my teacher’s portal in order to begin my four hour stretch of classes. Eric, a student I’ve had for quite some time, was eager as always to see me. He started off as my quietest student, with me constantly recommending that he be moved to an easier level as he appeared not to understand a word I said. Eric kept signing up for my class despite spending the majority of each 25 minute session grumpy and frustrated, and he remained in Level 2 despite my constant recommendations.
I always start class by introducing the day’s reward system. I have a variety of tools to encourage my student’s participation, everything from feeding bananas to a stuffed monkey, to climbing a helicopter to escape an alligator. With Eric these reward systems did not seem to be enough encouragement to get him participating, so I was in the process of trying different systems in hopes that one would stick. That day I stuck two race cars on my white board, and drew some stars along the race track to be collected.
I began teaching my lesson as usual, getting one or two words out of Eric on occasion, and a whole lot of grumpy face. Finally we got to our vocabulary review. “If you say it, the blue car goes, if I say it, the orange car goes,” I told Eric. I pointed to a word, and when Eric did not reply, I gave him the answer and moved my orange car a tiny fraction forward.
Suddenly Eric sat straight up in his chair, “Go back orange car!” he said.
It took me a moment to recover from shock, as this was the longest string of words I had heard from Eric since I started teaching him. I quickly modified my rules, “If you say the word, the blue car goes forward, and the orange car goes back.” Suddenly my student could talk.
Since that day Eric has been my chattiest student, to the point where I have difficulty completing an entire lesson with him. So this time when I signed on I was greeted with an energetic, excited boy.
“Teacher I am happy, angry, tired, sad, crying, excited!”
“What!?” I opened my eyes wide in shock, “Happy, angry, tired, sad, crying, and excited!” I asked making faces to go along with each emotion on the list.
Eric laughed, then paused and grew serious again. “Teacher I want to be the subway.”
“Ok Eric,” I replied pulling out my zip lock bag of vehicles. Ever since the transportation unit he had insisted on switching his race car for the subway.
“Teacher, you can be the airplane.”
“THE AIRPLANE!” I exclaimed, voice portraying as much excitement as I could manage, “airplanes are very fast, teacher will be number one!”
“No,” Eric corrected me, his face stern, “The wipers are broken. The airplane can not fly.”
Broken wipers were Eric’s usual excuse to keep my vehicle from moving, every since we had sung “Wheels on the Bus.”
With a lot of difficulty I moved back to the topic of the lesson, and on we went with class. The topic was interrupted periodically to discuss my airplane’s broken wipers.
We were just getting back into a good flow on our topic when Eric interrupted the lesson again.
“Teacher, I have to go to the bathroom.”
“No problem Eric, go quickly and I will wait.”
Our school has recently released an app that allows for our students to take classes on their cell phones or i-pads. Eric was on the app. Instead of leaving his desk and hurrying back as instructed he simply lifted his I-pad into the air and trundled off with me in hand.
“Eric? Don’t take me with you!!” my voice got more and more panicked as we grew closer to the bathroom. Eric calmly set up the I-pad so that I was facing him! “Eric! I don’t want to see this!”
“You can’t see anything teacher,” Eric stated. He had placed the I-pad so it only showed from waist up.
I guess I was not the only one with this problem, because a few weeks later I opened my weekly update from the school to read: “We have had a number of slightly unsettled teachers mention their kids have decided to grace the washroom iPad in hand. On the one hand, this means your classes are just so arresting, the students can’t help but take you with them. However we also agree that it creates an uncomfortable situation for the teacher and, all cultural differences aside, it is important our students and parents understand this. We are currently engaging with parents directly about the issue.”
Good to know the school is on my side.