Just a Little More Teacher Stuff


I know I write about teaching a lot. It’s because it was my job for a long time. Fun things happened. I don’t know if I told this story before, but I’d like to share it.

Until I became a teacher, I didn’t realize that there were people who found the environment of a classroom to be very, very uncomfortable. And I’m talking about adults here. I guess I didn’t know because I’d always loved going to school as a child, and I had been an active volunteer in my own children’s classrooms when they were young. Also, I worked as a teacher’s aide for a couple of years. So, I’m comfortable at school…which is why I chose “teacher” when I was looking for a career to do when I finally returned to college to finish it, once and for all.

One time I was meeting with a family for parent/teacher/student conferences. The little girl had started acting up in school somewhat and the mom and step-dad were sitting there with me and her and, frankly, she was getting over on her parents. I had mentioned some things that weren’t going well, and mom was pleading with the daughter to explain why she’d act like that in school. Well, this wasn’t going anywhere, I could tell. The little nine-year-old was running this meeting with the adults asking for her to cooperate.

The stepdad was soooo not comfortable.  He was a man who worked with his hands, obviously. They were grease-stained, with nails that were a little dirty. He was wearing a mechanic’s shirt and pants, and was at this meeting to support his wife. But being in a classroom with a teacher was clearly not a place he wanted to be. I realized I needed to grab back the power in this meeting.

I quickly thought of something I could say about the student to move the conversation from negative to positive, so I pointed out that she was a creative and talented writer. Then, a light bulb came on in my brain! I said to her, “Did you know that you can earn money with writing?” I had her attention now. I replied, “I have had some stories of mine printed in magazines before! And they paid me for them!”

I turned to stepdad. “Once I had a story printed in Easyriders Magazine. They put a Dave Mann illustration with it, and paid me $100 for it.”  He looked up at me, and blinked, and said, “Easyriders…the biker magazine??”

“Yes,” I replied. “It was in the February 1980 edition. I wrote about a Panhead, but they changed it to Flathead 80 because it was their eightieth edition.”

He sat up straighter and asked if I had a motorcycle. I told him about my husband’s bike, a 1969 Shovelhead with a Panhead low end. “Do you have a bike?” In fact he did, and we chatted for just a moment about Harleys, and then I turned again to my student and talked about her writing skills.

Suddenly, she was shrunk back to a little fourth-grade girl. Her mom was a grown woman, stepdad was a grown man. He and she pointed out that there wouldn’t be any more foolishness at school, and that their little girl would cooperate and they’d make sure of it. We were the adults. She was the child. Everyone was now in their proper roles and we were good.

You never know what will be the key to helping you build rapport with your students’ families. You just never know.

Published in Education
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There are 5 comments.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    What finesse! Love the story!

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge

    I liked the picture of the kids oogling the motorcycles while Mom and Dad look concerned.  I was one of the kids growing up . . .

    • #2
  3. JoelB Member

    I would not know a panhead from a copperhead, but this was a fine bit of wisdom you just shared.

    • #3
  4. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette

    Cow Girl: We were the adults. She was the child.

    Great post. And I can’t tell you how much I love that thought: You were the adults, she the child.

    I’ve long used that as an answer to the “why” question from kids, when the question is a response to a direct command: Because I’m an adult and you are a child.

    Warms my heart to hear someone else say it.

    • #4
  5. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    I can’t say anything about the adult / child dynamic in this particular story, but I can relate to the idea that we get a lot farther in working with others when we see them as human beings with human interests, and find ways to connect with those human interests. 

    As a corporate lawyer negotiating business deals I often found that finding human commonality with the people on the other side of the business deal helped keep the negotiations from becoming shouting matches. The most vivid was one negotiation in which I and the lawyer for the other party discovered we were both fathers of pre-teen girls who loved American Girl dolls (this was in the early 1990s). That connection kept business and legal disagreements from degenerating into nasty arguments. 

    The husband of an organist our church hired was quite nervous about being the accessory to his wife until I learned he was a car nut, and introduced him to a couple of other car nuts in the church. Then he had his own identity, and was not just following his wife around. 

    • #5
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