Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom


Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on April 11, 2013
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“I wnt to say sorry for what had happen in 4th block and people said that I had called u a name but I said this stupid sh** because I had to get off Google because (name deleted) wuz laughing at some of the pictures which made me start to laugh so you told me to get off I just wanted to say sorry”

Please excuse the atrocious grammar and spelling in the above message. (As a side note, this student recently took his Virginia state standardized writing test. The scary thing is he isn’t one I am worried about failing the test. It’s a perfect example of how horribly students write when using technology outside of school. Maybe the focus for a future blog…)

I found the message in my Facebook inbox one evening. (No, I am not friends with students on Facebook…another blog focus.) That day while in the computer lab, I told students when they completed the assigned test they could continue working on a PowerPoint they began earlier in the week as long as they remained silent while others completed the assessment.

When I heard giggles and whispers from one area of the lab, I approached two boys noticing one continued to work on the day’s test while the other had finished and was searching for images to use in his PowerPoint. Unfortunately, the images distracted the other student and the disruption resulted.

I bent down and told the student he would have to close the web browser until the other student finished because it was causing a distraction. I gave no further consequences. I simply said he needed to stop.

As I straightened to walk away, I heard an obscenity, verified by the gasps and the looks of horror on the faces of the other students. I couldn’t believe “stupid b*&%h” had come from that student’s mouth. Normally, he is a quiet boy who rarely engages in conversation unless he’s in his group of buddies. He answers in class when called on, had always been polite to me, and in his group of peers, I considered him one of the nicest and best behaved.

Dumbfounded, I called the office and had him removed from the lab. I didn’t have any referral forms with me, so he was going to have to sit in the office or the ISS room until I could write him up. The incident happened in last block, and by the time I got the referral to the office, buses had already left with the students. No matter. I knew administration would address it the following day.

When I saw the message on Facebook, I believed it immediately. He is simply one of those students who doesn’t cause my suspicions to flare and seems inherently honest. Cursing from him had been surprising enough. The extreme disrespect in what I thought I had heard was nearly unbelievable, so his message gave me a sense of relief. I feared I had read his personality and character wrong all year.

I didn’t respond online but planned to meet with him the following morning. One of the questions I asked when we met was, “Why did you use symbols in the word when you typed it in the Facebook message?” He said it wouldn’t be right to type it out. Obviously, my next question was, “Why is it okay to say it in my classroom but not to type it in a message?”

Don’t get me wrong. I realize words sometimes slip out in the heat of the moment. Typing takes more thought and is intentional in comparison. Whether spoken or written, it takes determination and effort to control our words, but they are powerful weapons and can cause a lot of damage if not controlled.

When I dismissed the student to return to class after our meeting, I prayed he would think twice before letting loose his tongue in the future instead of simply serving his consequences and forgetting the incident. I believe he will, which makes me extremely happy and hopeful. Teaching language arts (or any subject) isn’t simply sharing content knowledge. Sometimes as teachers, we also have the privilege of sharing life lessons as well.


Praying for Spouses

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on November 26, 2012
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I frequently pray about my kids’ spouses. Autumn is 16 and Colton is 8, so I hope this won’t be something that happens too soon, but it’s never too early to pray for their future.

Obviously, Autumn will probably be the first to marry. I know God has already chosen her spouse, so I pray she will open her heart to “the one” He sends her way.

Now, I don’t want to tell God His job, but here are a few of the traits and characteristics that are on my wish list for her future husband…

He will make her laugh out loud. Every day.

He will applaud her efforts, even if the results aren’t quite what were expected.

He will love experiences with her more than he will love acquiring things.

He will plan time together, not rely on her to do so every time.

He will never run errands without asking if she needs anything.

He will support and encourage her dreams and goals.

He will provide security and stability without using it as a tool of control.

He will never sit and drink coffee while she does tedious chores.

He will buy her what she wants, not what he thinks she needs.

He will understand her need for female friends and support their time together.

He will indulge her with her favorite activities.

He will listen, even if what she’s saying doesn’t directly affect his life.

He will ask her opinion and truly take it into account.

He will remember when she mentions something would be entertaining and make it happen.

He will consider how his actions and words affect her.

He will have a heart to serve others, not expect others to serve him.

He will treat her like a princess because he truly believes she is one.

He will love Jesus more than he loves her or himself.

The Power of Influence

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on September 7, 2012
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School is back in session. Four days down, and I can honestly say I’m exhausted. I forgot how tired I get after teaching all day. This first week has been quite the eye-opener.

Yesterday, someone said in an off-hand way after asking about the start of the year, “You’ll be a good influence on the kids.”

Influence them? I’m supposed to educate them, prepare them for high school, and remind them there is a difference between there, their, and they’re.

But the comment kept sneaking around in my mind all evening, and I really began to consider how we influence others. How do we compel others to change, to alter their opinions or shift their focus? It’s awesome, if you think about it. Where does the power come from? At school, it won’t really matter how much preparation I put into my lessons because I think influence comes from the following three situations:

1) Love. If someone loves you, influencing them will be much easier than if they dislike you. Animosity causes people to reject your ideas no matter how valid they may be. Wouldn’t you be more willing to consider an issue from someone else’s perspective if you loved them?

I know some of my new students will love me. One year a boy said as he left my room, “Bye! I love you!” Yes, I realize it was said out of habit. He probably said the same to his mom when he left his house every morning, but it was still nice to hear.

Unfortunately, some kids won’t feel any love in their hearts towards me. It makes me sad when I can’t build a relationship with any student, but usually one or two escape me every year. Those are the ones I will not be able to influence with love.

2) Respect. I was reared to respect people older than me, people who hold positions of authority, and people who spend their time serving others. My classroom rules read, “Respect yourself. Respect others. Respect the school. If you do those things, no other rules are necessary.” It’s true, but don’t we all know someone who doesn’t show respect?

I have to admit, a lot of my students don’t care about my age or role in the classroom. Without respect, my ideas don’t sway them and are sometimes immediately rejected without consideration. Even though I’m acting for the benefit of their education and their future, they refuse to be influenced by anything I say or do.

3) Imbalance of power. Being influenced – or forced – by someone else’s strength, position, or some other attribute may change my mind, but it basically eliminates any possibility of me ever feeling love or respect toward the person who has caused the shift in my action. I think everyone feels this way when it comes to brute force. We may have to comply, but we don’t have to like it.

Using my position of authority to force a student to do (or quit doing) something creates tension and ill-will. I have to admit, some days I feel like it’s my only option with certain kids, but I pray the relationships I build with my students are strong enough to influence them through love and respect.

Clint Eastwood once said, “It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.” I hope I have the discipline to do so because each of my students is an extraordinary individual with the potential to grow even more amazing. I am so blessed, honored, burdened, and overwhelmed to be a part of such an incredible experience.

What other factors do you think contribute to influence? 

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