I have always loved working with children. They are naive, innocent, full of questions, and without a filter. They say whatever they feel like, and that’s the best thing about them. But, when you are working with teenagers, you wish they had a filter. They can sometimes be very difficult, rude, arrogant, and full of attitude. I did have my share of “trouble” working with teenagers, however after almost two years with them, I have found my ways to deal with them. Thankfully, now we all are friends. They talk to me about teenager problems, their dreams and ambitions, their crushes, their difficulty in studies, their feeling of who they are etc etc. This exchange has developed a bond between us, which in turn helps me because now they listen to me, they work with me without being forced, and most importantly they feel belong in my classroom.
But what happens when they see me outside my classroom? Well, I have categorized them in to three categories based on how they react looking at me outside Speech Therapy sessions –
- There are a bunch of students who ignore me completely outside my class even though we share a wonderful rapport inside the classroom. Initially, I just couldn’t understand why. Most of my elementary kids waved at me from half a mile, whereas my lovely middle schoolers walked right through me as if I was invisible. I decided not to invade their space thinking someday I would be recognized – that day has not come yet! – and appreciated all the work we do together. Yes, this is how middle schoolers are. They are in the zone of “showing off” and a speech therapist to their list doesn’t look very cool to them. They want to keep my name miles away from theirs as somewhere they don’t want to acknowledge me or the difficulties they are facing.
- I am genuinely happy to be acquainted with the other category of students who are very friendly with me even outside the classroom. They greet me wherever they see me and have a small conversation. Some of the naughty ones play pranks on me (nothing of the embarrassing sort), and some discuss life problems right where they see me. I never discourage any of my students. I can take a break from my “pee break” to have a small chat with them. It is wonderful to see how well they have accepted a speech therapist in their life, which indirectly means they have accepted their problems and they no longer care who says what about them. Only if all the students can get to this stage.
- The third category of students are the most difficult ones, and maybe that’s why I am a more inclined towards them. They are my students who struggle to socialize. The moment they see me in a crowd, I can see a smile of familiarity, yet they are hesitant to talk to me in front of everyone. Some kids struggle because of autism, some because of emotional trauma, and some because of both. They try very hard to break out the shell to come and talk to me. They take two steps forward but move slowly backwards and completely avoid eye contact to avoid any sort of embarrassment. Only with these students, I approach them. I go to them, make them talk to me, and show them how easy it is to talk to someone even amid the crowd.
From morning till evening, this is what I go through with all my students. They are all friendly inside the classroom. But outside the classroom, some have “being tagged” issues, some have “I don’t care” attitude, and some have “come and talk to me” switch on. Don’t you think I have a lot on my plate right now? Yes, I do. I have lots and lots of love being served.