Stuck in the Middle: Welcome
One of the important things in education is inviting students into their learning by having a welcoming environment. At North Saanich Middle School, teachers do this in a variety of ways. First, they are at the door to their classrooms welcoming students as they enter the room. What a great way to start each day by building positive relationships. Second, they decorate their rooms with inspirational quotes and student work. This shows that they care about their students’ learning. Additionally, each of our rooms has not only a standard student desks and chairs, but a stand-up desk, a rocking chair, a roundtable for group work, and several hokie stools. All the different types of furniture are to let students know that our welcoming school environment supports students who need to learn in a variety of ways.
That doesn’t mean that all students can stay in these welcoming places all day. Some of our students need to move around more to enable themselves to refocus. We have three stationary bikes in the halls for students who need a five-minute break, and we also allow students who need to move a chance to go for the occasional walk. This is almost always part of their student learning plan.
Last week one of those students on a needed walking break arrived at the door of my office. He poked his head into the door. “Hey Mr. Russell, what are you doing?”
“Just reading report cards," I replied before adding, “Are you just on a break?”
“Yup,” he quickly replied. I could tell that he was looking for a reason to continue the conversation or, perhaps more importantly to him, extend his break from class. Then he added. “I know this is a random question but do you have any pineapple?” He continued, “I just feel like some pineapple.”
I got up from my desk, moved towards the door where he was standing, and changed the direction of the conversation because the truth was that I had already eaten the pineapple in my lunch for a morning snack. “Do you know that in the Southern States the pineapple is a symbol of welcome? They place them on their kitchen tables or pictures of them on their doors to let people know they are welcome there.”
My young friend was still looking for ways to distract me and waste a little more time, so he pretended to be interested. “Really? I didn’t know that.”
I knew it was time for him to go back to class, so I said, “take a look at my door. Does it have a pineapple on it?”
He stood back and looked up and down my door before turning back to me with a puzzled expression on his face, “No.” he replied.
“Then get out of here and get back to class.” I playfully teased him. He headed off to class with a smile on his face.
That afternoon during recess I was walking around the school when I saw this young man and one of his friends sitting on a bench talking to a couple of girls. They were very engaged in the conversation, but I decided to stop and say hello anyway.
They were extremely polite to me, but I got the sense that I was cramping their style. Actually, I am pretty sure I was cramping their style. Eventually, the young man looked at me with a huge smile on his face and said, “Hey Mr. Russell.” Then he paused until we made eye contact and he added, “Do you see any pineapples around here?”
“Touche,” I replied. “I will move on and leave you all alone.”
“Thanks.” He replied before happily resuming his conversation with his friends.
At North Saanich Middle School, we want to welcome students into the school and into their learning. And sometimes a student can make an adult feel welcome by turning the tables on them in a playful manner. How do you like them pineapples, Mr. Russell?
I like them a lot. Go Hawks!