This topic has been on my mind quite a bit because of a specific student that I have had since the beginning of last school year. I love this student to death, but she has pushed me away as hard as she can. I was finally able to break through to her last year by a serious miracle! This year, a new teacher was having the same problems with the same student. It made me realize that this wasn't an isolated instance between me and the student, but something that happens often.
If you have ever taught or worked with 8th-10th grade kids (girls in particular) you may relate with my story. This can happen as a Sunday School Teacher, a sports coach, or a mentor. Girls at that age (boys as well, but I don't have as much experience with boys) can have such a tough exterior, and they can be bitter and rude.
After over a year of picking away at my student's hard exterior, here are some of the things I learned about teaching students to trust you.
For the purpose of this article, I am going to call this student "Debby".
1. Be Consistent
No matter how much Debby annoyed me or how rude she was to me, I always smiled at her. Every morning it was "Hi Gorgeous", "Love your hair!" or "Let me see that pretty smile!". About 90% of the time I got a scowl, but as the months wore on, Debby started smiling or at least stopped scowling! On the first day of this year I saw her and ran to give her a hug. She just smiled and said "Are you going to smother me with love again?!". It made me so happy that she knew I would never give up.
2. Don't Fight With Them
Debby would do anything at first to get a rise out of me. She would call me ugly, tell me I was a horrible teacher, or laugh at me when I said a wrong word just to embarrass me. If Debby could think of something to argue with me or something that would hurt me she would say it. For about the first 2 months I use to argue back. I wanted her to see that I cared and that I was right!! That went HORRIBLY! Finally I decided to try a new tactic. I just ignored her or said "Thank You" when she said I was ugly. I said "Who Cares" when she made a crazy accusation. Slowly she stopped and sat and listened. However, today she said "Ms. Martin you come get these papers. I am not bringing them to you." some things never change!
3. Always Be Positive
There were days I wanted to give her the stink eye back or tell her that she looked ugly too. That would have killed all of my progress. Instead, I always smile at her. It makes her uncomfortable but now she just laughs about it and smiles back!
4. Come To Them
literally. Go to their house! Now some environments don't allow that, but in the rural south it is highly encouraged. Parents love to have teachers in their homes and I have been invited for dinner so many times my students. I think going to Debby's house and talking with her parents made the biggest impact. She realized that I cared enough about her to find her and do something about it.
5. Love, Love, Love With Sugar On Top
I have sort of said this already, but I smother that girl! Every day she has a note on her book or a compliment from me. It stops her from being negative before she even starts.
6. Know Their Story
It wasn't until I knew where Debby came from and all of her hardships that I became determined to have her trust me. So much of how I treat her is based on what I know she needs. You have to understand your students if you want to help them. I may be the only one who tells her she is beautiful and it makes all of the difference.
Today, if Debby has a problem or needs to calm down she asks to come to my class. If she thinks she is going to fight someone during lunch, she tells them she has lunch detention and comes to me (She is no longer in my class!). She may not love me but she definitely trust me. I will keep telling her she is
B-E-A-U-tiful every day!
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I am 25 years old with a 2 year old son and a wicked handsome husband living in Birmingham, Alabama.