When Mrs. Tang went out on Maternity leave, I decided to take on the added responsibility of being the 8th grade Language Arts teacher for 3 months. I must admit that, as the date of my return to the classroom got closer, I felt a growing sense of apprehension. Would I still have the skills? Would the kids respond positively to me? Would I be able to maintain the level of preparation and attention to detail that Mrs. Tang is known for? Would I be able to balance my responsibilities as Principal, Teacher and Father?
The jury is still out on those questions. What I can tell you is that I am having a great experience working with this year’s 8th grade class. What a great group of kids! They have impressed me on a daily basis. Here are a few examples of what makes me so proud of them.
1. They show foresight. Erick Martinez came to me today and said, “Mr. Laurance, can you give me tonight’s homework now (before class), so I can complete it in tutorial?” He knew he wanted to go out on Halloween so he was trying to get as much done as possible before leaving school. I love it! “A man with a plan!”
2. They take pride in their work. Complete sentences, proper punctuation, proper headings, careful drawings, detailed descriptions and neat appearance all say: “I care about this work and I am striving to do my best”.
3. Respect for teachers, respect for each other. Simply put, they know how to treat people with kindness and humility. While teaching them, I have never for an instant felt disrespected or unappreciated. They listen to each other and do not interrupt. They clap when someone is done speaking or performing. Somebody raised these kids right!
4. Responsibility. These kids know that, in the end, it is the student’s responsibility to get an education. Not the parents’ responsibility, not the teachers’ responsibility: their responsibility. They do not need to be told to stay on task, complete homework or have their hands held. This is a mature group that is well along the path to independence.
5. Public Speaking. They are not afraid to speak in front of a group. We recently completed a series of “Book Talks”, where each student read a book and then came before the class to speak about the book for about 10 minutes. To a student, the talks were excellent. They spoke clearly and confidently, while making eye contact with the group. They talked about genre and setting and the main characters. Then perhaps most impressively, fielded questions from their classmates about the book.
6. Effort. Not every student is on the same level academically in this class. Some have all A’s, some do not. But every kid tries his or her best, every day. They understand that your goals must match your actions. If you are going to set your goals high, you are going to have to work hard to achieve those goals.
For one hour each day, I have the privilege of working with this amazing group of young people. It is a tribute to our entire community that we have such a strong class of 8th graders.