“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”I remember the first time I read the above quote from Haim Ginott, and regretting not coming across it before I began my career. This statement now drives every action I take with children, and every word I use. The power we have as educators is insurmountable, and truly epic in nature. We directly impact the environment in our classrooms each and every day. Our mood largely depends on how our children react to a school day. We are all guilty of losing ourselves and saying things to children we later regret. We are human (although I believe we possess great superpowers!) and we slip. Reflection on these slip-ups is what will cause us to think before you speak, just as we teach our children to do. Ask yourself these questions:
― Haim G. Ginott
"Do I slip often, saying negative things to children that I would not want anyone saying to my own children?"
"Have I witnessed co-workers speaking to children in such a way that it has caused me to be offended?"
Reflect on these questions for a moment. If you can answer "yes" to either or both, consider what your role is in taking action to improve yourself or your fellow co-workers. How can we hold ourselves more accountable for the way we communicate with children? We can all improve in this area, but it takes purposeful reflection and self awareness in order to truly change and grow from our mistakes.
And now for a challenge! READY, SET...GROW!
Warning...challenging ourselves can sting a little, but remember the purpose. We all want to improve and BE the absolute best for kids. It is why we do what we do! We make mistakes. We fail. We disappoint kids and parents sometimes. We have all reacted with loose emotions in stressful situations involving kids (and coworkers). Does that make us horrible people? Of course not! Consider the ramifications if we allow ourselves or others to become habitual at negative interactions with kids. We damage kids and each other. We allow our culture to become intoxicated. Together, we can ensure this will never happen, but it takes a strong level of accountability for ourselves and each other. Sooooooo... I challenge you!
Take a moment to reflect on interactions with students over the last week in which you consider to be difficult situations. Make a list of the ones that immediately come to mind. I encourage you to consider your most challenging students and the interactions you have had with them. List as many positive and negative interactions as you can. (Remember, reflection, self awareness, and being uncomfortable are the key to growing.)
Some points to ponder... (Remember, we are all human and fail at times! No judging here!)
*Do I have more negative interactions than positive with a particular student(s)?
*How was my tone and body language when these interactions took place?
*If someone witnessed my interactions, such as a parent, coworker, adminstrator, etc., would it be perceived as inappropriate?
*Would I approve someone speaking to my child or loved one in this manner?
*What can I do differently next time to improve my reaction and the outcome of the situation?
Confession: My Own Failure
I completed this activity based on my interactions with students over the last week. I focused on the students who tend to spend time in the office for behavioral reasons. One particular conversation stuck out to me. I had a student pegged as 'guilty' in a particular situation involving two other students. I didn't accuse, but reflecting back I realize that my tone and body language with the student eluded to him that I felt he was guilty. After investigating and having conversations with the other students involved, the student was right. He had not done what he was accused of doing, although it seemed very obvious at first that he did. After apologizing to the student for jumping to conclusions, his response was, "It's ok. I know I stay in trouble and I am used to it." Oh boy! I had failed with him...and I will do everything in my power to make sure he realizes how much I believe in him. I will not stop until he knows without a doubt. I have to be in his corner at all times, even when he makes mistakes. This young man taught me a life lesson, and reminded me that empathy is our greatest tool. We must use it to connect, to undertand, and to make a lasting difference that will invest in individuals for a lifetime.
We all fail with kids, but are we changing from those failures? Every child we teach should see us as a hero. We are here to support, challenge, protect, and sometimes even save them. Do your students see you as a hero in their lives? I won't stop until each little set of eyes views me this way. I want their trust. I want to thrive on their success. I want them to remember me as someone who made a difference in their world. I want to be an inspiration.
Be relentless on reaching hero status! Learn from your past interactions...the ones you are not proud of...and use your superpowers to humanize interactions with kids. Let's do this!
Resources to Support You:
Shifting from Awareness to Acceptance (article)