Teaching Students to Be Human

It's the week after annual CUE, and I'm supposed to be implementing a bunch of new tech tools that propel my students into learning. But I'm not. I'm doing the same things I did last year, but today I'm realizing again that teaching the content isn't enough. I need to teach my kids to be human. 

In sixth grade yesterday, we read Newsela articles in groups of four, and then worked together to write a rhyming poem about it. And it got chaotic. Throwing four sixth graders on a Google Doc at the same time often creates a mess of fonts and rapid-fire curser movement as each one attempts to make it look like he or she desires, with little regard for content. This frustrates me like crazy because I feel like, "come on, why are you wasting time?" But I'm continually being reminded that there's just kids, and it's okay that they're just kids. So after a little struggle we stopped, and I asked, "What does a good team member look like?" 

They gave me some good answers to start. "They listen." "They take the ideas of others." But I felt like that was still too vague. 

"What do good team members do with their eyes?" We started to get a little more specific here. They look at each other. They don't look out the windows. They look at the right things on their computer screens. 

"What do good team members do with their hands?" As it turns out, they don't just start typing things on the Doc. Yes, it's nice that Google Docs allows us to do that, but we all agreed that it's not helpful when anyone does that. 

"What do good team members do with their mouths?" They don't talk over each other. They keep the conversation on task. They don't use a negative tone. They keep them closed once in a while. 

"What do good team members do with their bodies?" They avoid unnecessary movement and stay directed at the task. It's often helpful to be at the same level as your team, but moving your body direction can allow you to be higher and yet remain engaged. 

Teaching students (or adults for that matter) to be human is no easy task, but I can't help but believe it's the most important thing I can teach my students. My students also wrote a poem by themselves during the period, and all of them agreed that this was easier because they didn't have to listen to the ideas of others. Asking my students to work alone would allow us to move a lot faster through curriculum. And yes, getting through the curricular content is important, However, it pales in comparison to learning to be human. To listen. To engage. To compromise. To humble yourself. To champion others.