New Challenge – The Student Who Doesn’t Respond

Scene One

Third day of school. Only started teaching in my new classroom in the middle of the previous day, when the air conditioner was installed. Five minutes before the first bell, I arrive to find that the carpet-boards (which allow teachers to hang things on the walls) which I had requested were leaning against the cupboard, blocking my access to it. They were too heavy for me to move on my own.

THE student, whom I will refer to as New Kid (10th grade) walks in. I had never seen him before. I admit I was told that he has “communication issues” ( not related to the hearing problem) but not much more than that. I wasn’t given lables and I  won’t use one here. But I was flustered and didn’t remember at that moment which new student he was. I inquired about New Kid’s name but there was no reply. Then I asked for help in moving the boards. New Kid stood there looking at me blankly. I asked again using speech, sign language and just plain gestures showing what I wanted. Nothing happened. Then I realized who this unfamiliar face must be. I placed his hand on the boards and he gave a small tug and let go. He just stood there. I didn’t give up and he finally gave me enough momentum to drag the boards to the side.

One of the boards mentioned.
One of the boards mentioned.

Scene Two

Same lesson. We were alone for the most of the lesson because other students were at a lecture, which was really good. We read a text together and New Kid is brilliant, top level. What a vocabulary, impressive by any EFL standard but particualry so for a hard of hearing student. I quickly realized that I don’t have to ask comprehension questions, he WILL turn to me if there is a phrase he doesn’t know. Then there was an appropriate reaction (most of the time) to what I said. I told him which books to buy.

Second board arrived with makeshift covering because it is so badly pockmarked.
Second board arrived with makeshift covering because it is so badly pockmarked.

Scene Three

Second and third lesson. I ask him if he told his parents about the books,  will he have the books soon. No reaction. Ignores my questions completely. Books appeared yesterday, beautifully wrapped in protective plastic.

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Same board, new cover.

Scene Four

I give New Kid  a grammar worksheet on the topic of Passive (different tenses). He won’t let me go over the help sheet (with the rules) with him so I let him begin and work with someone else. When I come back to him a bit later, he’s quite annoyed that I insist on checking what he has done so far. Since he did not let me explain anything I really did not want him to complete many exercises without checking his work. He’s doing pretty well so I point out where there is a need for corrections and then leave him be.

The bell rings. All the students pack up and begin leaving. I tell him the bell has rung but he ignores me and continues working.  I begin talking to another teacher who has come by to discuss some things during the break. New Kid finishes the worksheet and wants me to check it. I say no, this is the break now, I’m talking to the teacher now. We’ll check it next lesson. New Kid wants me to check it NOW. I refuse. He gives up but remains standing next to us till the bell rings and the other teacher leaves. He will be late for his next class. Only then does he pack his things and leave.

Other board, new cover.
Other board, new cover.

We’ll learn to get used to each other. I already know I should use scrap paper to write him comments as he doesn’t like me writing on the side of his page.  It just amazes me that people are surprised that I’m not bored of teaching for so many years. So many years, yet there are always NEW KIDS who need to be taught in slightly different ways. Boredom is NOT a problem!

4 thoughts on “New Challenge – The Student Who Doesn’t Respond”

    1. Baiba,
      I think that is a distinct possibility. But no labels were given and I’m not qualified to give one. I have been thinking about labels. In Special-Ed we talk a lot about the negative side of labels. But they are also very helpful in preparing you for behaviors you might encounter, things you should be ready for.

  1. Wow! You are a better person than I. But you are right, teaching (even outside of your challenging environment) is never boring!

    1. Nah, Walton, you deal with what you have. And at least I have small classes. My heart goes out to colleagues dealing with real special needs students in classes of 40 children!
      May you continue to find teaching interesting for many years to come!

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