Over the past two years, I’ve had three boy students in various classes (of different ethnicities) who all had issues with me “always checking up on them.”

In my classroom, I am constantly moving around, kneeling down looking at student work, trying to be helpful, checking-in. I also tend to use “touch,” primarily with boys — a quick tap on the shoulder, a high-five, etc. I don’t think, though, I’ve “checked-in” with these boys that much more than I have with others — maybe a little bit, because they seemed to find the work a little more challenging.

In each case, I asked our extraordinary counselor (I haven’t asked her if she’s comfortable with me writing her name here, so I’ll leave it blank until I get her permission) to meet periodically with them and to help them and me figure out how we could work together more effectively. I tell ya’, it’s a gift to have one counselor dedicated to only the three hundred students in our Small Learning Community. We’ve been able to make things better, but it’s never worked out great.

Until now.

Our counselor came to me and, after numerous conversations with students, found the common thread was that none presently had a male adult presence in their lives and that, when they had before, when that male adult was physically close to them it usually resulted in a physical abuse. It wasn’t my “checking-in” with them that was the issue — it was how I was doing it and how close I was physically getting to them.

I recently spoke with one of the students and said I had been speaking with the counselor, and wanted to find out from him how close he was okay with me coming to him to give feedback. I think he was surprised by the question, but we quickly came to an agreement, and it really wasn’t that much farther away than I had been coming. He clearly felt good about the conversation, and has been very receptive to my feedback on his class work since we made that “deal.”

I’ll be sharing this experience with my colleagues, and thought it might be useful for readers to hear it, too. I wonder how often something like this might be the source of tension in classrooms?