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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Three Lessons I Have Learned from Kids

Seventeen years in the field of education has given me countless opportunities to learn, evolve, and change along with the times. Most importantly, kids have taught me that I must change with them. As society evolves, our children and families evolve. If we pay close attention and listen intently to kids, they will speak to us in ways we never imagined. They will teach us how to evolve, how to adapt, and how to change to meet their needs. I have been guilty of spending more time talking to children and not enough time listening, as we all have. Sometimes we need to silence ourselves and listen to kids...allow them to teach us where to take them, and to make us better at what we do. There are so many lessons I have learned, but there are three very crucial ones that I continually remind myself of on a daily basis. These three lessons drive much of what I do regarding decision making, expectations for teachers, and how I connect with kids. 

Lesson One: Every Child Has a Story We Need to Hear.
Kids come to school to learn, right? This is our reason for offering a free and appropriate public education. Learning is the main goal for all of our students. The main problem with this mindset is that not all of our kids come to school to learn. Some wake themselves up, get themselves dressed, go to the bus stop, and come to school...for a hot breakfast. They know that a few hours after that they will receive a hot lunch. Some kids come to school because it is warm there, and where they live it is not. There are kids who come to school to feel safe, because it is the only place they have where they experience security. Many (most) kids come to school to be loved, hugged, valued, and smiled upon. Do we know who these kids are? Do we know their story and where they are coming from? We can certainly find out, and it is our moral obligation to do so. Start with the child's permanent file. Recently we discovered a student who had only been in school four years, yet had transitioned schools 13 times. What does this child need and how do those needs differ from a child who has attended the same school for four years? This is one example of why it is important for us to DIG deep into a child's history so we can help create and foster a future story. 

Lesson Two: No Child Wants to Act Out/Misbehave
Think of your most challenging student regarding behavior. Now reflect on how many interactions you have with this student on a daily basis. Compare negative versus positive interactions. Are they balanced? Does one outweigh the other? Now, this may sting a little...but remember we have ALL been there! 
The truth is, if you have more negative interactions with a student than positive, you are most likely not focused on the specific needs of that student.
 What does this child lack? What is desired? It isn't always easy to pinpoint; in fact it can be downright challenging. Kids do not come to us with directions on how to meet their needs. It is our job to figure them out, and sometimes it takes multiple educators and school years to make this happen. We all play a part, and we all need to know who these kids are. They are our kids, and we take ownership for supporting them together. 

Lesson Three: All Kids Care about Being Successful.
Think about the following phrases that are sometimes said about children...
"He just doesn't care."
"She is lazy and I can't help that."
"Why don't his parents do something about him?"
"All she does in class is sleep, so she could care less about my teaching."
"He's disrespectful because he won't look at me when I am talking!"
"There is nothing I can do for him. He has to show me he cares."

These phrases are culture killers in a school. 

There is not a child (or adult) who does not want to experience success. We all have the desire to achieve; we are born with it, otherwise our human race would cease to exist. I think back on students I have labeled as not caring, and I am overcome with guilt for ever considering it. No one wants to fail, but the fear of failure can overshadow the desire to succeed. Many kids withdraw from attempting success because they cannot imagine themselves achieving success. It is easier to appear uncaring or become disengaged than to face the possibility of missing the success target. 

I challenge you this week to seek out children who need to expose their story to you, and find out more. Dig in a file. Conference with a parent. Talk to a previous teacher. Listen to the child. We all do this, but we can certainly be more purposeful about it. What can your students teach you this week? What valuable attributes can you learn about individuals that will help you make a difference in their worlds? We as educators have an enormous amount of power to impact kids. We could be that one person who rescues a child from the world of no hope, and provide a bridge that leads to a bright future. 

How blessed we are to have this opportunity. 


Noteworthy Resources

Developing Part/Whole Thinking (Math)

Twitter Chat: When Kids Act Naughty (Managing Behavior)

Six Ways to Nurture Kids' Empathy & Boost Emotional IQ

Important Dates
January is School Board Appreciation Month!
January 26: Staffulty Gathering, 3:45 in the Media Center
January 27: Fire Drill @????
February 5: Embedded Session
February 19: Daddy/Daughter Dance (tickets sales online)

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