No Blaise: How To Make Your Students Say Nice Things About You

April 2nd, 2017

Two weeks ago I had a weird day where I was out in the morning visiting another school, and then came back to my classroom in the afternoon. Usually I’d be out all day because a substitute teacher isn’t interested in getting paid for half a day when a full day of pay for subbing isn’t exactly hitting the jackpot as it is. But, the sub that was supposed to cover for me this day decided “fuck it” at 6am and cancelled. So, a line of wonderful people at school tag teamed watching my students throughout the morning until I got back.

To help these saints with taming my first graders, a left a bunch of worksheets. Some math, some reading, some writing, and lots of coloring sheets. One the writing worksheets I put in there was called “My Fabulous Teacher” in order to do a pulse check on how my kids felt about me as their teacher. This worksheet asked my kids questions like, “Who’s your teacher”, “What do you like most about your teacher?”, “Why do you think your teacher is fabulous?” and then they got to draw a picture.

The pictures my students draw of me are always incredible to see. I’m often portrayed as some sort of giant, usually hunched over, with a variety of colors of hair. The pictures they drew this time were no different. I was drawn very large, and they were drawn very small.

What I was most interested in getting from these worksheets was how my students would fill in answers to the questions “What do you like most about your teacher?” and “Why do you think your teacher is fabulous?”. What I was looking for was a quick confidence boost, it had been a hard week and I really just wanted to read about how my students thought about how I was cool and nice. That’s how teaching works, right?

Thankfully none of students disregarded the guided phrasing of the question and wrote things like “My teacher looks tired all the time.” or “My teacher loses here train of thought a lot.”. Some of my kids wrote the basics like, “My teacher is nice.” and “My teacher loves her class.” which, of course, was wonderful to see. Even more wonderful to see were the more unique answers that my students came up with.

I’m reading through them and I come across, “My teacher has nice hair.” I laughed and smiled at it, thinking it was an answer one student came up with. It was a cute anecdote. Then I continued reading them, and I came across this answer “My teacher has nice hair.” many more times. Don’t worry, some of my students wrote things like, “She wants us to go to college” and “She helps us learn”, so my last 7 months of teaching haven’t (yet) been forgotten in the name of good hair.

But then I looked on the board and saw what looked like a list the person watching my students had helped my students come up with. Number one on this list? “My teacher has nice hair.” The other items on the list were things like, “She likes us.”, “She wants us to know math.” and “She helps us.” All good things.  Regardless, I am reflecting on what it means that the first thing that pops into my students minds when asked “What do you like most about your teacher?” is “My teacher has nice hair.”

Is it a bad thing that my students think of my hair before they think of what I’ve taught them? Not necessarily. Is it a good thing? Probably not. Did I take it as a compliment? Yeah. I did.

Sure, I would’ve preferred every kid answered that they felt smarter, kinder, and calmer because of everything I’d taught them. But, students liking my hair isn’t the worst thing in the world. One of them also answered that I “wear pretty clothes.”

Overall my mission of forcing compliments out of six and seven year olds, I mean checking their comprehension and writing skills, was generally a success.

Teaching has it’s moments.

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