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We teachers have super powers.

We don’t always choose our clothing with intention but middle schoolers do. When we notice and celebrate the concert Tshirt, the new shoes, the haircut, it brings light to their days and validates their identity. I try to spend time every day pouring love on students in this fashion. Some days it’s just a targeted look with a thumbs up. But other days a detail about a particular child drives an entire class period of conversation.

Try starting class with this kind of noticing. Pay attention to who has a new hair color, who is wearing a funny t-shirt, etc. I start class from the same place each day. If I didn’t notice anything when the kids were coming in, I take a moment to survey the crew at that point. Then, I’ll take a few steps toward the student, put my hand on a shoulder and say, “Class, there’s something different about Matthew today!”

Discuss it with class. A short conversation is all you need to send a big pitcher of love to that kid.

Make your students feel like the man in the hat.

If new language is required, and it might be, just put it up on the board and point and pause it while discussing.

When we do this, we’re automatically confirming the child’s identity. When the rest of the class engages by answer questions, demonstrating comprehension, applauding they are also confirming that child’s identity. They are learning to honor and respect differences.

Valuing and caring about world cultures begins by respecting the kid sitting next to you.

Make your students feel like the man in the hat.

So, try it. Start small. Tell a kid that you like their shirt. Tell the class, “Class, I like this shirt! This shirt is funny! Applause, please!” Give a reaffirming look and a thumbs up to the kid and move on.

Next time, try to stretch the conversation a bit more.

Me (noticing a new concert Tshirt) – “OH! Do you like Imagine Dragons?”

Kid – “¡Sí!”

Me – “Me too! Class, she likes Imagine Dragons!”

Class – “Oooh!” (or maybe they’ve recently learned “¡Qué interesante!”)

Me – Class, raise your hand if you like Imagine Dragons, like us!

More than a few kids raise hands.

Me – Oh, [walking to another kid] you like Imagine Dragons too? Awesome! [To someone who doesn’t raise hand] So, you do not like Imagine Dragons?

Kid – “No”

Me – “Oh, I understand. What music group do you like?”

Maybe you’ll strike on something that has so much energy you’ll be able to ride the wave for 10 – 15 minutes. If you do, RIDE IT. The most compelling input to adolescents has to do with themselves.

Make your students feel like the man in the hat.


We All Have Superpowers

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