So there's this kid, whom I suspected was trying to get under my skin from the first day. Or maybe he was just under the influence of another rabble-rowser in the class. Regardless, I was constantly re-directing, re-focusing, basically nagging this kid to get in line.
Friday he heard me talking to another kid about football, or something else relatively trivial. He called me over and said, "How come you don't talk to me like that?" My first reaction was something along the lines of "because I don't get the chance - you're always acting up" but I stuffed it down, pulled up a chair, and said, "OK, let's chat a minute." I asked him questions. He's new to this school. He's from Selma. He's older than the other kids in the class because he basically lost a year of school in juvey. "Now it's my turn," I said. "What do you mean?" "Now you ask me questions like you want to get to know me." I answered him that I was from NC, hadn't lived in AL all my life. He asked if I rooted for NC State, and I explained I wasn't allowed to, that the UNC/NCSU rivalry was much stronger when I was a kid.
It took maybe 4 minutes, and then I said, "let's get back to work, ok?" He said, "You know, Ms. Phillips, 90 minutes is a long time. You think sometimes we could just have a few minutes to look out the window or something?" I'll think about it.
Tuesday he asked about my day, asked if I thought about quitting when kids were rude, and said he was glad when I told him I thought my job too important to quit. I thanked him for being an excellent student that day, because he was.
Yesterday I told all my classes that I didn't want to see any more phones. I don't care if they're on the desk and you're not messing with them - you're still looking at them every 90 seconds to see if someone has texted or snap-chatted. It's an addiction. Put it away, and be fully present. I'd rather you were day-dreaming than looking to your phone to provide distraction.
Halfway through our block, most kids were occupying themselves on their computers (at varying degrees of productivity) while we waited for the last few to finish a test. I noticed that this young man was standing at the window, looking at the kids in the courtyard below. The bell rang to signal the end of someone else's lunch, and he said, "Mrs. Phillips! When the bell rang, those kids scattered like ants!"
"Wow, man! Listen to your analogy! That was practically poetry! Aren't you glad you weren't on your phone?"
"Yep! And aren't you glad you let me look out the window?"
I'm so glad we were both listening.