Norming the Class 3 – Emotional Barometer Students

The biggest drawback to being so nice to the kids (we have to in order for comprehensible input to work) is that we are setting ourselves up to be used by kids who lack empathy. This is a serious problem that, to my knowledge, has not yet been addressed in TPRS circles.
What happens is that we are all lovey-dovey, personalizing away, acting just blown away by the fact that Shelly knows how to climb rainbows, and some of the kids in the room, who may want this to be a grammar class or at least a more left brain class – because “showing up” as a human being in a participatory and reciprocal way freaks them out – start to calculate how they can avoid bringing their heart and clear eyes into the classroom.
(No blame, some have never seen that modeled or been asked to do that, ever, at home or in school, so how can we not expect them to do that if they have never been seen it modeled?)
All the same, those kids represent potential year long black holes that will suck the energy out of each and every class we teach all year if we don’t deal with it. So, what do we do? There must be something we can do about those kids whose parents (usually it’s the parents not the kids) are trying to drag their kids back into the 20th century because conjugating verbs “worked for them”.
Idea 1: As discussed extensively in PQA in a Wink!, we must be kind to them and never let them know we don’t like them. This is key. Many kids are so used to being disliked (unloved), it is so much their world, that we must be kind to them.
Idea 2: We must celebrate their successes. Their perception is that you don’t see their pain. They are trying to mask it as they do in all their classes. So, as long as they try to understand us, we can decide to treat them as kind of “emotional barometer students”. Then we at least have a chance to win them over to what we are doing.
We must never assume that they are lost causes or somehow convey to them that we don’t think that they can do it, because, indeed, our class may be and probably is a kind of party for them, the only high point of the day. This very fact points to the sacredness of the teaching profession and the mantle we wear as crucial to the health of our society.
Besides, if they don’t understand, it it completely our fault – we have failed to go slowly enough, to constantly look into their eyes when teaching, to instruct them in the rules and enforce them, to be the adult in the room and make the classroom atmosphere one in which every single kid present can and will learn.
Idea 3: We must quietly find a superstar with open heart and ask the superstar, whom we sit next to the suffering kid, to slowly, imperceptibly, take care of that kid in those little moments of class, to help us do that.
Last year I had one such kid who was ruthless in her invisible world mental attacks. But she was just scared, really, and misinformed. So this is not an easy one, but it is part of norming the class – sending the message that dark energy will be met with light.
Now here is where I am out of ideas on how to deal with these kids. This topic of dealing with emotional barometer students if far from sufficiently discussed above, so if anyone in the group has anything to add to this list of how to deal with these kids, please comment below.



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