While pursuing my undergraduate degree in Education, I was taught that challenges from students are a show of disrespect and should not be tolerated in the classroom. There are many times when students present academic challenges that are often overlooked as these disrespectful comments, but have we thought of what could happen if we accept them as an honest means of communication?
Early last week while teaching my 8th grade computer class, a student decided to challenge me. I had assigned a project in which the students had to think of 20 questions to ask someone (not knowing who) in the class; another student would answer the questions. This student asked me why I do not complete the projects along with them. He proceeded to asked me to answer his questions and told me that, if I created questions for him, he would have to answer them. While I could have overlooked this challenge as disrespect or a distraction, I decided to take him up on this challenge! I went home that night and thought of the most off the wall, out of the box questions. The next time I saw the 8th grade, I presented him with his questions. Naturally, he complained that the questions were too hard and he did not know how to answer them. When class was over, I read his responses to the questions and was surprised by how creative and thoughtful his responses were. I then went to his questions for me and was surprised at how much thought he put into his questions. I showed him the document, and he was surprised by how honest I was when answering the questions. I later overheard him talking to classmates about some of my responses. He thought it was the coolest thing ever that the teacher actually participated in a class project and that HE of all the students gets to “introduce” me to his class.
By accepting this challenge, I was able to build a better academic relationship with this student, and there is a new level of respect between us because of this challenge. This helped me see the student as a curious child, who simply asked a question, hoping an adult would see the sincerity of his curiosity. Curiosity is a trait I would like to continue to cultivate in students throughout my career. I look forward to continuing to accept the challenges of my students.
Jackie Markowski is a 2nd year LV serving at De La Salle Blessed Sacrament in Memphis, Tennessee and a 2012 graduate of Lewis University.