Learning To Fly (Reminding Ourselves That Students Are People)

Jose Vilson Resources

Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure

Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure

Confession: I had the best time yesterday hanging with my students at Six Flags Great Adventure for their senior trip.

From discovering that Adventure Time is my new favorite show (and I ain’t even know it) to testing out my intestinal fortitude (just fine for now, thank you very much), I got to see a side of my students I rarely get to see. The heights of the Kingda Ka and twists of Batman The Ride shook their false bravado and nonchalance they put on at school. In one instance, a couple of my more nervous girls went immediately to the Kingda Ka while most of my boys stayed behind.

Right then, I wish we had this roller coaster all along.

Having a rapport with students often demands that we pull back our actual selves, focusing instead on our roles as “warm demanders.” Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but every so often, we need spaces where we can interact aside from academics. In no way do I advocate for lower expectations for students. Rather, I’m suggesting that I’m still trying to find the balance between high expectations for them as students and high expectations for all of us as people.

Yesterday, when a few of my students feared getting up this green giant, I took my usual technique with math and said, “Guys, this is light work.” They didn’t find it so easy. Some hyperventilated. Others tried to back out until their friends pulled them back in. One of them said she needed me to sit next to her on the ride and not move too much. I tell them it’s 30 seconds for the entire ride. They’re doubting it, but they’ve counted every ride before them and each of them hit 30 seconds until they return.

When it’s our turn, they’re super-quiet. I try to keep a straight face, but the G-force pushed my face back and I looked like a villain out of Dick Tracy. A meme would ensue shortly thereafter. When we finished the ride, I cracked a wry smile at the survivors. They waited half an hour, but thanked me.

Shortly thereafter, I tweeted:

As much as I’ve taught them, my only regret is that I didn’t remind myself that I’m learning from them too.