My students did a presentation for science today on animals they created. They designed their own unique animal while adding structural and behavioural adaptations that were beneficial to their animal. They had to classify this creature, list the prey and predators and give details about the habitat. It was a fun activity with some creativity and artwork while also basing it on some scientific research and application of knowledge. The presentations were going well (though they needed more practice with eye contact) when near the end, one huge disappointment occurred.
One student designed an owl and said that this owl had nine lives with nine large feathers to represent each of the lives. Another student asked why then were there only seven feathers present on her bird. The student who asked is a kind boy and I’m sure his asking the question was not out of malice, but simple curiosity or he wanted to show he was really paying attention to the presentation. However, the look on the creator’s face spoke volumes. She shut down, sat there, and had her back to me. I could hardly focus on the next presentation because I was also upset because I thought it was an unneccessary comment, but the next presenter had gone up and I didn’t want to distract him.
Afterwards, I spoke to the class about what we had discussed earlier in the week. We said that this classroom was a safe place. It was a place for us to learn, to make mistakes, and not be harshly judged. It was their first presentation of the year so of course, we would allow for errors and make suggestions for improvement. It really struck a chord that all the presentations had gone relatively smoothly until this. As her tears streamed down her face when I approached, I found myself welling up. I asked the class to do their agendas, but the student was overwhelmed. As sensitive as I am, it was all I could do not to lose it (I was unsuccessful). I grabbed us the box of tissues and sat with her.
A part of me was embarrassed and yet not at all. Teachers are human and I’m pretty emotional to begin with (as my girlfriends and HTD can attest). At school, the students become my kids and if one is hurting, it’s pretty safe to say that I feel it along with them. It was actually very sweet for some students to come up and ask if I was okay. (LOL.) One boy even said, “It’s okay. I’m very emotional too. I cry when I see people cry.” Talk about a safe environment! An 11 year-old boy admitting this in front of thirty classmates?
This reminded me how important it is to encourage our children and students to always be kind and respectful. Words hurt and you can’t take them back. Although the boy apologized of his own accord afterwards, I’m sure it’s something that will weigh her down for the next bit and perhaps the next time she does a presentation. I hope after this, my students will take a moment before saying what “they have to say.”