Tag Archives: kindness

The Sun’s Lesson (in the Midst of My Winter Moment)

If you’re like me, you’re human.

These last couple of weeks have been trying. Maybe for you as well.

I’ve been trying to convince my students to give me their best effort. I’ve told stories. I’ve shared my own failures. I’ve turned those failures into lessons learned. I’ve tried to impart those lessons.

I hope that it’s made a difference.

Yet one county benchmark, a couple of tests, plus a quiz or two and I wonder if all that time talking about grit and perseverance has made any difference.

It’s disheartening when it seems my best efforts haven’t resulted in a positive gain.

I know, I know.

Our effect as teachers can’t always be measured.

It especially can’t be measured as it relates to the most important lessons — kindness, being mindful of others, sincerity, the importance of honesty, proving to anyone and everyone that no challenge is too difficult to overcome.

Sometimes we just need a little encouragement that our best efforts aren’t falling on deaf ears.

So today in the midst of preparing my report cards for what has been days, I looked up at the television and heard this fable and thought of us.

Just a small reminder of remembering how to respond to our students when that frustration might convince us to do the wrong thing.


The North Wind and The Sun

The North Wind and the Sun had a quarrel about which of them was the stronger. While they were disputing with much heat and bluster, a Traveler passed along the road wrapped in a cloak.

“Let us agree,” said the Sun, “that he is the stronger who can strip that Traveler of his cloak.”

“Very well,” growled the North Wind, and at once sent a cold, howling blast against the Traveler.

With the first gust of wind the ends of the cloak whipped about the Traveler’s body.

But he immediately wrapped it closely around him, and the harder the Wind blew, the tighter he held it to him. The North Wind tore angrily at the cloak, but all his efforts were in vain.

Then the Sun began to shine.

At first his beams were gentle, and in the pleasant warmth after the bitter cold of the North Wind, the Traveler unfastened his cloak and let it hang loosely from his shoulders.

The Sun’s rays grew warmer and warmer. The man took off his cap and mopped his brow. At last he became so heated that he pulled off his cloak, and, to escape the blazing sunshine, threw himself down in the welcome shade of a tree by the roadside.


Gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail.

When it’s summer time. When it’s quiet. When the chaos has abated and the year has been buttoned up. It’s then that I can easily justify to myself how important it is to be that teacher who is relatable. I want to be the teacher who is even tempered. The person who is welcoming each and every day. The one who hears every story without concern for the instructional time that’s passing by.

But when it’s winter and it’s cold.

When those state assessments seem to be coming toward us quicker by each passing week.

When I’ve told what I’ve always thought are inspirational stories that will bring out the best in my students. It’s now that I look out and see bored students who are obviously far less interested in what I have to say. It’s now when I fall back to the basics and am feel too tired to be that enthusiastic cheerleader.

Let me remember that kind words have an effect that no harsh ones ever will. That children will always immediately scramble when they’re uncomfortable, but that moment will quickly pass.

Let me remember that that’s not who I am and not the teacher I want to be. I resolved that many years ago when I decided to return to the idea of being a teacher.

Let us remember that the children that arrive each day may definitely need structure, but it should be complimented by a heartfelt smile and kind gestures — Aesop says so too.


Interested in sharing this lesson with your class? Here’s the link to the Library of Congress document.

Teacher’s Lesson: Phone Calls Unanswered

“If you’re hearing this message and we didn’t pick up, we’re making some changes, and you’re one of them.”

What did I just hear?

That’s not the kind of message I expected when I called one of my student’s parents.

He wasn’t doing as well and I was doing what every good teacher should.

I was calling home for some help. I was calling home to share that I cared about their son.

I admit, not only did the message confuse me, it made me a little mad.

Why was I cut off? What did I do?

It was my third year of teaching. I had just transferred to the county in which I live to cut my daily commute from over two hours to about 40 minutes.

No more leaving the house at 6 am and more time at home with my family which now included a one year old.

It wasn’t the first time that parents wouldn’t call me back and it definitely hasn’t been the last. I know it happens at all schools, but I seem to be experiencing it more lately.

And it still annoys me.

I share this with you because I’ve had a hard time understanding when a parent doesn’t call back. I don’t understand when numbers don’t work. It frustrates me when I can’t leave a message.

It probably frustrates me as much as it has when my own children’s teachers don’t get back to us when we have questions.

I can’t relate. Maybe like my students when I try to relate a story or lesson.

I was telling my students just yesterday about the tv we had in our house. It had a handle. It was a black and white model similar to the one above. It wasn’t just small by today’s standards — it was tiny.

It was what we had in my house.

When I explained this phenomenon of the tiny tv that was normal to me when I was my students’ age their faces told me they couldn’t picture a tv that could be moved from one room to another. I told them I had, at most, 5 channels which ended around 11:30 with a band of color and an unappealing shrill of a beep.

Yeah, I suppose I was showing my age.

They couldn’t relate to me, and I’m sure that sometimes I can’t relate to what is or what happens in their home.

Here’s my point.

I’m sure that my students don’t know about my being raised on what used to be the local neighborhood landfill — my dad admits to me that even his friends thought he was crazy when he bought that land.

My students don’t know about my asking Santa for one thing at Christmas because that’s what we did, we asked for one thing.

My students don’t know that my skin color made me a minority in my neighborhood, even though I check off caucasian on government forms.

My students have no clue what it’s like seeing your cousin and best buddy get hit by a semi trailer. I do, and it’s taken a long time for that memory to fade.

They don’t know about the lessons taught to me by father — some tougher than others; and there is no way I can completely share how I felt when my parents divorced.

I share this with you because I’ve caught myself being frustrated again lately when I can’t reach a parent just like that moment many years ago.

This time however I’m trying to remember that I really don’t know what my students and their parents are enduring.

What I shouldn’t do is continue to react with frustration and instead, try to remember that every student I meet in my classroom is affected by the struggles that happen at home.

And these struggles aren’t just real for my students, but they affect their parents in ways I don’t know and of which I’m unaware. It can’t but affect  how available they are when I call home.

So this is a reminder for myself that I do not know what battle occurs on the other side of that phone call or email.

I will do a better job that when I reach out to my parents and they’re unable to call me back, and when I react, I will do so with more of an understanding heart.

 

Teacher Desk Essentials

desk

Now that teachers are back at it, here’s the very important, very necessary list of items every teacher needs, no – can’t live without, in their desk.

This is the one place you can call your own, your own little personal space. They have their desk and you’ve probably decorated your walls for them. This desk is yours – a container for memories and pick-me-ups.

Students may try to gain access, do not let them look. No getting something out of it for you. Don’t let them take a peek. Having a few surprises at hand might end up changing their day from mediocre to awe inspiring.

So with what to fill that old, splitting, pealing, well worn desk?

Here are eleven I consider to be must-haves.

1. Breath Mints. Mints because while many of us enjoy our morning coffee, our students do not appreciate the coffee breath that comes with it. Even worse might be that amazing hoagie you had for lunch filled with garlic and onion goodness that’s left your breath, well, a little ripe. If you care about helping them one-on-one, then you’re going to have to care enough to try to be a bit minty.

2. Chocolate / Candy / Guilty Tasty Pleasure. You deserve it! Next time you’re at the grocery store go on down the candy aisle and stash a bag of chocolate in your cart. Maybe two in fact. Then take that bag and stuff it far up in your desk drawer. Just when you’ve forgotten it’s there and you had a less than stellar day, go ahead and have a bite (or two).

Also, if you’re a friendly soul, and you should be, offer some chocolatey goodness to a colleague when they’re having a tough day. Perhaps they will offer some yummies when your time comes.

3. Spare Set of Shoes. Your feet are going to hurt. Maybe they already hurt. Mine do. Go out and buy that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing that speak to you. Go ahead, permission granted. Then place them at the bottom of your desk to replace the ones that perfectly matched your outfit, however cause pain to shoot up your legs if you get up from your chair for more than a minute and a half. Remember, you so deserve those pair of shoes.

4. EZ Grader. I know that having an app to accomplish this task might be more impressive, however there’s nothing wrong with having this trusty tool at the ready. I think I have three at this point. Used to quickly determine grades by sliding to the correct number of problems, this handy little product is a must have and needs to be close at hand. Your students might also swoon at its ability to accurately report their grade and it doesn’t even require batteries.

5. Change for the Vending Machine. It’s the afternoon and there are days in which a little sugar rush is in order. Similar to the chocolate fix, this is an additional pick-me-up needed on occasion. Carefully decide however if combining a snack with the chocolate isn’t overkill, or just go for it and let the chips fall where they may.

Collect enough change and perhaps you can even convince your front office staff to order you some Chinese on a Friday as a super treat – please then go and remember #1.

6. Deodorant. You rushed out of the house this morning worrying about your family, your dog’s panicked look saying please let me out before you go required a bit more time in the backyard, and you then went back to the house for your lunch that you forgot. What you didn’t do is lather yourself with a swipe or two of deodorant. Similar to the breath mints, this one can’t be ignored or forgotten, so it’s better to have some backup just in case. Doesn’t take up much space, just try not to apply while standing in the front of the room.

7. Happy File. When students draw you a picture, when their parents have taken the time to send in a card of thanks, when your principal has written you an inspiring note recognizing your hard work, when good things come your way… put them into your Happy Feel Good File. Then also remember to take out a few examples to recall the impact you’ve made on students that have long since left your room and continued on to the next grade or even out of school.

8. Clown nose, Lone Ranger mask, magic kit. Use one of these (or all three) sparingly and whenever you pull open that squeaky drawer, heads will pop up. Eyes will widen wondering what your next move might be. Convince them that you’re someone else, combine it with an accent, and you’re certain to have them reminiscing at lunch about your crazy antics.

9. Stress Ball. For obvious reasons it’s a better idea to squeeze the ball than to unleash your frustration. Even better is to loan this to your students who have a bit of frustration pent up inside. Have more than two and one can be used for the all important toe crushing you can do under your desk as you appear calm from the waist up.

10. Music Option. When you need it a little quieter, try classical. When you need to inspire, try some jazz. When you need to develop camaraderie, go ahead and have a sing-a-long. Music can play a great role in your classroom and students won’t soon forget that Indonesian music you played that they had never heard anything that even come close to it. When they tell you they know if all, break out some big band and see how long they complain – they’ll come around, it just might take a few weeks.

11. Family Pictures. When you’re wondering why you’re still at it and how God could have possibly given you the patience you have found deep within yourself, take a look at the family that loves you and knows you are doing great work.

 I’m curious what you have in that desk of yours that others might find to be essential worthy. Please leave your comment. I look forward to adding yours to my list – I still have some room.

Offer A Smile to Start Your Lesson

Smiling is Light

Each morning I wait by my classroom door. I wait with a smile.

I hope that will make a difference.

You really can’t over emphasize the importance of that simple gesture.

I don’t ask my students if they have their homework or anything else that has to do with school. I don’t remind them about classroom rules as they sit down.

And I do have to remind myself at times to have the kind of human interaction I would want to have if I were walking into my third grade class. The first thing really shouldn’t be about writing in a journal or turning in last night’s homework – it should just be about a little kindness.

Often many of my students say good morning to me before I have a chance to say it first. We do in fact spend some time at the beginning of the year talking about the importance of kindness. And yes, reminders on this one have to happen occasionally.

But then it happens… a good morning shared by not just that one student whose day is almost always a challenge, but like dominoes the others behind him chime in too. A steady stream of greeting as they unpack their backpacks.

There’s a lot of joy in hearing that from a third grader. No matter how my morning routine has evolved over the last couple of hours, hearing them share some enthusiasm at the beginning of the day encourages me.

It erases my worries about the state tests that are coming closer by the day or the necessity of finishing the reading assessments.

I admit to you though, if my students don’t immediately get started on that morning work after they come into my classroom… it annoys me. However I remind myself that if it was me, I would choose to talk with a friend too.

I’m not a factory worker making widgets that have to meet some consistent standard. I don’t slap an Inspected by #47 sticker on their foreheads as they leave every day. That would be odd.

I just ask them how they are. How their weekend went. What the best part of last night was or how their little sister is doing.

If I can get a smile or laugh out of them, that’s even better.

Kids are honest. I think the younger they are, the more honesty you get in return. If they know that you care about how their night really went, you’re also going to get some interesting responses which in turn requires you to spend some time really listening to their stories.

The replies have reminded me that our job isn’t to teach objectives. Our job is to teach little people. Little humans. Children that have struggles and successes.

My students worry and are stressed. They know when things aren’t good at home and why that is. If their parents worry about money, so do they. If people at home let on that times are tough, they embrace that despair too.

Like little sponges, they’re taking it all in. It surprises me how resilient they really are as they endure what happens around them – whether at home, in the grocery store, or on the way to school.

Knowing this, I try to encourage conversation that’s upbeat. That doesn’t dwell on what isn’t, but what can be.

And I start that conversation by a simple hello and smile standing at my classroom door.

I’m curious and would love to hear what do you do in your classroom to start off the day?