Wednesday, September 2, 2015
The Importance of Cleaning the Whiteboards
When class ends I say, "Goodbye! See you all [next class day]," and I always get up to clean the whiteboards. Every teacher is supposed to clean the whiteboards before leaving classrooms because it's annoying to show up to class with some previous professor's scribbles everywhere. But even if I am staying in the room a bit longer to grade papers, or even if I know the janitor will be visiting the room shortly after class, I always slowly wipe down everything from the day immediately after releasing the students. In the year I have been teaching community college, a lot of really key conversations have happened while I cleaned whiteboards. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I've heard that many gay high school students come out to their parents in the car because they're side by side instead of facing one another. Also, the teenager knows he won't be beaten. Not at that particular moment anyway. In a similar, less dire vein, I like giving students time to talk to me while my back is turned. It's funny. I'm very aware this is happening. I'm not sure if they do. If they get why suddenly they feel ready to explain the absences or admit they really don't know what the heck they're doing when it comes to next week's exam. On the flip side, while I clean white boards is often when the little sweeties make themselves known. The quiet kids who want to be my friend, who are looking for a mentor-figure to share a piece of good news. I think these students typically see authority figures as very busy and perhaps uninterested. But, ah ha, "those five minutes she's not grading or teaching or really doing ANYTHING. I can swoop in and show her my drawing right then. When she's just wiping dry erase dust into the air." The days I haven't written anything (and thus don't erase), fewer people linger. The days I haven't written anything I don't usually hear any stories and no one unravels apologies. Again, I don't think they know this. I'm not sure if there is a larger metaphor at play or simply some useful teaching advice for those interested.