This simple reminder is a powerful mantra.
It’s one that I hope my children’s teachers post in their classrooms.
It’s one that I repeat to myself – a lot.
The above mantra came to me in my early years of teaching when I was attending a conference. A fellow teacher sat across from me at a lunch table red penning a paper. She caught me watching her and shared that this was the student’s third attempt at revision. She shared her suspicion that the student’s mother had helped this time, as the voice in the paper was different. Finally, she shared that she did not think the student deserved a good grade on the paper. She had reasons – I don’t remember them.
The above idea left me frustrated after my own child’s parent – teacher conference. Said child had a very messy desk. She was not turning in homework. It was all done, and done pretty well, but she never figured out when she could turn it into the basket and not be scolded for being out of her seat. I still don’t totally understand where the classroom system had broken down. There were a lot of reasons why my daughter was to blame. I don’t remember them.
My mantra filled me with sadness when a student met with me after a three-day suspension. A group of boys had been harassing him. He eventually had enough. He took his punishment gracefully and requested time to catch-up. When I asked about the days at home he said it was actually a good thing because his mom was in the hospital and he was able to see her. As his teacher, there were a lot of things that made this kid a challenge. I don’t remember them.
What I do remember after each of these moments is how overwhelmed I felt wondering if I could have done more. Could I have advocated more strongly? Could I have had a more courageous conversation? But, in that moment, I was not able to fix things. So I keep trying…
For example, I am trying to end every parent phone call with a thank you – “Thank you for sharing your student with me.”
I want parents to know that I recognize the honor.
I am trying work within the system to challenge compliance-focused education and instead encourage mindsets that are aimed on building trust.
I want students to know I care about them as individual human beings.
I am mustering up the courage to recite my mantra out loud. All our kids, including the goofy ones with only partially developed frontal lobes, full of anxiety and distraction, seemingly fixed on challenging us – Those kids are someone’s everything. And all those someones, sharing their kids with us, trust us to be what their child needs us to be. How can we not treat them with love?
I want to try to live up to the challenge.