I think the first time I came across this quote from Haim Ginott, teacher, child psychologist, psychotherapist, parent educator, author of several books, was probably in college. I’m pretty sure we even discussed it, but it’s always a good reminder to read it again, especially on those days when I am stressed or upset just one reason why it is exactly in my eyeline behind my monitor. I can look up to read it any time and I frequently do.
I have come to the 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 the 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.
Read that again and just think about it for a minute, take in the sheer amount of power a teacher has over the life of a child. Nowhere is this more evident than in the book Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher. I won’t give away much of the story but Hannah is a teenager who has come to the end of her rope, she is depressed and can see no reason to go on, before she commits suicide she makes cassette tapes and list of the 13 reason why, thirteen people, one of whom was her English teacher and counselor who she spoke to about her feelings and concerns about something that happened to her, if you want to know what it is you’ll have to read it sorry. The teacher in essence tells her he can’t help her, when she leaves he lets her go knowing she is suicidal. I just can’t even imagine! Totally reprehensible! Yes, I know this is fiction but it is a great example of the impact a teacher can have on a student.
I try to be mindful of my behavior and my attitude. Kids come in the door grinning and if I’m grouchy and snap at them I can take the joy right out of their day, instead I make a concerted effort to take a deep breath and take in their happiness, let go of whatever it is that’s bothering me. Those little smiles and hugs make such a difference in my day so why wouldn’t my attitude make a difference in theirs. The same applies at home, keep that in mind, I will!