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Hotchalk Global

My First Day and my First Breakthrough

Title – My First Day and my First Breakthrough

By – Janice Marie

First of all, I am a non-traditional entry into teaching. I have worked in the computer industry for many years. During those years, I spent most of my time conducting high level meetings in sales and marketing. I decided to live my original dream and become a teacher at 55 years of age.

My first big day – I was now a teacher in the classroom. I had great expectations! I teach business technology grades 8 – 12 in a poverty area (all students are on free lunch). Things were going so well my first two periods (I teach 5 different subjects a day). Then came my 3rd period class – 8th graders with only one girl in the class. I thought the class was bad until the intercom came on and the office was asking if I was in my classroom. Of course, I responded. A student who knew he was going to be late to class had informed the office I was not in my class room (10 minutes after class began).

When the student came in and I walked over to greet him, he looked through me and said “don’t touch me.” He then put his head on his desk and did not seem to listen to a word I said. I spoke about respect in the classroom and discussed my

“safe environment” expectations – respect for everyone

. I had decided I was not going to fight “this” battle on that day with him. I did not confront him for the “lie” to the office or keeping his head down.

The next day he came into class (on time).This time instead of listening or following instructions on keyboarding software, he proceeded to get on internet games and play. With the other students on task, I walked over to him. He looked at me ready to snap back at anything I said. I ask him “where did you learn to use a computer like that?” He looked at me surprised. I repeated “you are really good at that, where did you learn so much?” He began to tell me his father “use to” buy him games to play, but not anymore. I could feel the pain. Instead of scolding him for being off task,

I surprised him and complimented him on his skills.

Then, I ask him to show me what he could do in our software. He was amazing. I then ask him to help some of the other students, which he complied and did a great job explaining it and showing them how to do things just minutes after getting on it himself.

The next day he came into the classroom and from that point on, he was great. This student had difficulty in so many other classes that he was sent to an alternative school located across the street from our high school. I sent messages to him through a coach that taught there – I really asked if he could come over for my class but that was not possible.

On a Friday night at a high school football game, I really got my breakthrough. It was the first time I saw him again. From about five feet away, in front of his friends, he threw his arms out and came over to me and gave me a big hug saying “Hi, Ms. Marie.” We talked for a while and before he walked away, he had hugged me two more times. This was a long way from “don’t touch me” on that first day.

My goal (and I have challenged all my classes) is not to have one discipline referral from any of my classes for the entire year.

So far, we are in our 5th week and I have only needed to step out one time with two students to have conversation about their actions. I think they know I love them first.

One of the greatest sales people I ever worked with sold $46 million dollars in software in the 1980’s in just one year. He said

“If you have 60 minutes to spend with a client, use 50 minutes of that time talking about what they want to talk about and 10 minutes on what you need to talk about.”

I know I am new in the classroom, but what I learned in business is paying off with great classes and students who love to come into my class – excited to be there and looking for ways to succeed. It was a tremendous cut in pay, but very rewarding otherwise. I now hope eventually more business people are motivated to transfer their skills, talents and people skills into the classroom by changing the pay scale to payoff their experience.

Learning cannot occur without great classroom management skills.

Hope this helps someone…

I truly believe our problems in education will be solved with better people skills – we have the curriculum knowledge.


Janice Marie

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