Something all teachers should take to heart and mind

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!

 

 

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Only a Teacher

Today I’m sharing yet another one of the poems I have on my Teacher Inspiration wall.  This one is by Dr. Ivan Fitzwater

 

Only a Teacher

I am a teacher!

What I do and say are being absorbed by young minds

who echo those images across the ages.

My lessons will be immortal,

affecting people yet unborn,

people I will never see or know.

The future of the world is in my classroom today-

a future with the potential for good or bad.

The pliable minds of tomorrow’s leaders will be molded

either artistically or grotesquely by what I do.

 

Several future presidents are learning from me today-

so are the great writers of the next decades

and so are the so-called ordinary people

who make the decisions in a democracy.

I must never forget these same people

could be the thieves and murderers of the future.

 

Only a teacher.

Thank God I have a calling to the greatest

profession of all.

I must be vigilant every day

lest I lose one fragile opportunity

to improve tomorrow.

 

I Am a Teacher

This poem by Stacey Bonino is on my wall of inspiration by my desk.  I’m not sure it even lists everything a teacher does but it’s pretty good list.

I Am a Teacher

I am a counselor and psychologist to a problem-filled child,

I am a police officer that controls a child gone wild.

I am a travel agent scheduling our trips for the year,

I am a confidante that wipes a crying child’s tear.

I am a banker collecting money for a ton of different things,

I am a librarian showing adventures that a storybook brings.

I am a custodian that has to clean certain little messes,

I am a psychic that learns to know all that everybody only guesses.

I am a photographer keeping pictures of a child’s yearly growth,

When mother and father are gone for the day, I become both.

I am a doctor that detects when a child is feeling sick,

I am a politician that must know the laws and recognize a trick.

I am a party planner for holidays to celebrate with all,

I am a decorator of a room, filling every wall.

I am a news reporter updating on our nation’s current events,

I am a detective solving small mysteries and ending all suspense.

I am a clown and comedian that makes the children laugh,

I am a dietician assuring they have lunch or from mine I give them half.

When we seem to stray from values, I become a preacher,

But I’m proud to have to be these people because …

I’m proud to say, “I am a teacher.”

 

What Teachers Make

Short post today but sometimes as we all know the saying “good things come in short packages”, ok so I altered the saying just a bit but it still makes sense.  This is a short post but I think it’s powerful.   You’ll have to tell me what you think.  If you are an educator and somehow have never seen this video you need to watch it.  If you know a teacher share this with them.  I first saw this video several years ago at an all district meeting.  Our superintendent had seen the video and wanted to share it with us, unfortunately he didn’t realize the version he found to share was a bit school inappropriate at the end.  For your viewing here is the “explicit” version and the clean version, here’s the text of the poem from Taylor Mali’s website, it does contain the explicit words but you can remove it should you want to print it, and finally here’s the poem in comic strip form (also explicit).  I know I’ll be adding it to my wall of inspiration.  Every time I watch this video I end up in tears and cheering, hopefully it will inspire you just as much.  Like I said at the beginning this is a short post I know but there’s really nothing to do but let the words speak for themselves!

What you focus on you get more of!

This statement was part of my training in the Conscious Discipline program by Dr. Becky Bailey.  It was pointed out to us that if you focus on the negative, if you frequently nag, berate, point out the negative behaviors in your classroom or your own kids, those are the behaviors you will see more often.  Though this wasn’t discussed I think there are two reasons for this: the first being when you are focused on one thing that is what you actually notice, you don’t notice other things, the second reason I think it works this way is that when kids  see others getting attention for negative behaviors they may begin to act out to get attention themselves.  Not every child will do this but some will.  I’ve seen it year after year a student desperately wants attention and they try to get it any way they can which includes acting out in class.

Conversely if you focus on the positive behaviors you see, compliment students for doing good things, have students recognize each other for random acts of kindness you create a positive environment and what you will see/notice is more positive behavior.  Those students who are seeking attention will see that doing kind things, being respectful, following directions are the way to get that attention.

So keep this saying in mind at home or in the classroom:

 

The Starfish Pin

So in my last post I mentioned that the starfish pin was part of my realization that I was finally at teacher, time to explain.  Rockwood School District is where my first student teaching experience was, it’s also where I had the job of Title 1 assistant.  All of the teachers in Rockwood had a starfish pin.  The district gave these out to new teachers in the district, new to teaching or new to the district.  Along with the pin came this story (which is currently posted on the wall above my desk, I laminated my copy when I got it and it has been posted in every classroom I’ve had). You may have head this story or a version of it elsewhere but here it is again:

There once was a wise old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.  One day as he is walking along the shore, he looks down the beach and sees a human figure moving like a dancer.  As he gets closer, he sees that it is a young man and the young man isn’t dancing, but instead he is reaching down to the shore, picking up a starfish, and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

“Good morning! What are you doing?” asks the wise man.

The young man pauses, looks up, and replies, “Throwing starfish in the ocean.  The sun is rising, and the tide is out.  And if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

“But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish all along it.  You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man, listening politely, bends down and picks up another starfish, throwing it into the sea past the breaking waves.  Turning to the old man he modestly replies, “It made a difference for that one.”

~inspired by the writing of Loren Eiseley

This story struck a chord in me then and still does today.  Yes I want to reach every child in my room but if I reach just one I know that I have done my job and done it well.  

The day I received my copy of the story and my starfish pin was a proud one for me, just more proof that I’d done it.  I wore that pin for years, unfortunately somewhere along the way, in our multiple moves, I lost it.  I have looked for a new one but haven’t found one yet, if you see one let me know please where I can get it.

This story also goes well with a short saying that I have seen in many teachers’ rooms, on school signs, and in day cares as well:

One hundred years from now

It will not matter what kind of car I drove

What kind of house I lived in

How much money I had in my bank account

Nor what my clothes looked like

But one hundred years from now

The world may be a little better

Because I was important in the life of a child.

Excerpt from the poem Within My Power by Forest Whitcraft

This is a poem I think all parents need to take to heart too.  This is yet another one I have posted above my desk.  I have five other inspirational or teacher oriented sayings on my wall.  I look to them occasionally, particularly in times of frustration.  They renew my spirit in low times just as the random kiddo hug in the hallway or the smile as they walk through my classroom door do.  Maybe I’ll share some of those others another time.