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.