“Remember, everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. Nine times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won't make you angry; it will break your heart.”
- Annette Breaux:
This quote is posted on the back of the staff lounge door at the Special Education summer school where I work. It reminds me that every single student I interact with has a story so much deeper than what I can possibly see or understand based on my 45 minutes per day with them. It is the phrase that forces me to breathe and think before reacting to a misbehavior. It is the very necessary pause that I need when faced with a challenging student.
I had parent teacher conferences yesterday. I usually don’t get too many parents, but the conversations I had were powerful and insightful. They added another layer to how I view my students. Hearing their stories, struggles and successes reminds me that kids enter our classrooms with so much weight on their shoulders. I so badly want to be and provide a safe space for them to let down their guards and exhale. The truth is that it can be incredibly taxing to keep it together all day. I see it with my two year old son. His teachers tell us that he is well behaved and how well he listens to directions. They say he is always patient and calm. Meanwhile at home, I see tantrums and whining and typical two year old behavior that, after a long day of ‘performing’ and keeping it together myself, gets under my skin. But then I realized that it’s simply human nature to keep it together until we are safe to fall apart. As humans, we have a tendency to show our undesirable traits to the people we trust the most. It’s part of unconditional love - You accept your children, students, spouses, friends on their beautiful days but also (and especially) their ugly ones.
Every misbehavior has a story. It is our responsibility as educators and parents to love them fiercely even when they fall apart. Show them how to safely identify and navigate the emotions so that we are equipping them with strategies they can employ in the future.