One day the kids received their school pictures.
I walked by and noticed their pictures lying on their desks. When they realized I was looking at their pictures, some of the girls tried to hide it from me. “Don’t look!” they said. “I look terrible! It’s hideous!”
“No it’s not,” I said. “It’s cute. Stop being so self-conscious. You’re too young for that.”
Later we were playing with the marble tower game, where you build a tower using different pieces, and let the marbles roll down your creation. It’s a fun game I used to play when I was a kid.
Michelle and another kid were working together making a tower, while a boy we’ll call Neil S. (there’s 2 Neil’s in my group) was working on his own tower with one of the other boys.
Neil S. has a mechanical mind. He excels at building things.
“Woah,” I said when I saw his tower. It was pretty advanced for a 2nd grader.
Michelle heard me, and said, “You like theirs better than ours.”
“Why do you think that?”
“You said, ‘woah.’ That means you like theirs better than ours.”
Normally I try to answer all the kids questions as best I can, no matter how difficult or off-the-wall they may be. After all, that’s how kids learn; by asking questions.
One day Michelle stood up in the middle of study hall. In front of the entire class, she asked, “Mr. Robert, who’s the prettiest girl in the class?”
“All the girls are pretty,” I said. Really, what else was I supposed to say?
“But if you had to choose one,” asked Michelle, “who would you choose?”
At that moment Mick stood up and announced to the class, “I think Yuna’s the prettiest!”
Michelle continued to press me for an answer. “If you had to choose one…”
Honestly I don’t think I could possibly choose one as the prettiest even if I tried. It’s like a parent trying to choose between their kids. It can’t possibly happen. You like them all equally.
“Mr. Robert, who’s the prettiest?”
“Michelle, do your homework.”
“Yuna! It’s Yuna! Yuna’s prettiest!” said Mick, jumping up and down.
By that point, the class was in an uproar.
“Everyone, quiet. Do your homework.”
Mick came to me and showed me a piece of paper. On it he had written, “I like Yuna. I want to ciss her.” (That’s how he spelled it.)
Mick went over to Yuna, showed her the paper (just in case it weren’t obvious already that he liked her), then went back to his seat. Yuna had no reaction whatsoever. Mick didn’t seem to care. He just sat there smiling away.
So some of the boys like Yuna. The boys like the “girly-girls,” like Yuna and Mary Ann. Michelle, on the other hand, is rather tomboyish, and does things differently from the “girly-girls.” They wear skirts, she wears sneakers. They wear pretty shoes and jewelry and things like that, and Michelle tends not to. Michelle is also the youngest kid in the class (she’s young enough to be in first grade) which I think makes things tougher for her.
I had a feeling that Michelle had a mild case of inferiority. As a teacher, it’s important to notice these things in order to help correct it. If a student has a low self-esteem or is self-conscious, it will cause them stress and anxiety and hamper their ability to learn. With Michelle, I just tried to be supportive and encouraging. She would frequently talk to me, and I made sure to take the time to listen. Even if it were about silly things, such as her “hiiii” joke, I think it’s important to show genuine care and interest in students lives in order to make them feel appreciated. Students need solid emotional support in order to achieve academic goals. I think that as teachers, our jobs are to not only help students succeed academically, but also have solid emotional and social well-being.