"I am the decisive element. ."

I’ve come  to a 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 a 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.”
― Haim G. Ginott

"A frightening conclusion". . .  If I were afraid of the responsibility, I might run from this proffession of educating our young, like right. . .now. . . after reading this quote.  But, I won't.  It is at the heart of why I am working to get back in the classroom as classroom teacher after ten years of staying home with my own kids.   It is the idea that a teacher is “the decisive element in the classroom” and that “As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power” that is the scariest, because if I am not extremely thoughtful and cautious I could actually miss an opportunity (or many) to inspire my students to grow as humans not just as students.  Our children who are different kinds of learners, but also different kinds of humans need that education just as much as learning to read.  As teachers we are in the position to help children grow their humanity.

This quote speaks to why my favorite year as first grade teacher was the year I discovered that greeting each child at the door every morning was key.  Well, that is not all that revolutionary really, but I didn’t just greet them, I insisted (very patiently for some) that they each share with me something about their life, anything from weekend plans to hopes and dreams.  I wanted to get to know my kids as humans.  I tried to create an environment where it was ok to bring your self to school.  I insisted they bring who they are into the classroom rather than leave a piece of themselves at the door.  I wanted to be able to see them as their family saw them. . . at least a little.
When I think of this quote, and our current society where bullying, hate and violence are still all too prevalent, it brings out a desire in me to take my greeting even a step further and not only appreciate each student for who he or she is, but also to create a community where they will learn not just about math, or reading, but also about each other.  My goal is to learn and practice how to choose words, create experiences, and capitalize on moments that will not only allow but also teach and encourage a classroom of children from different backgrounds to appreciate and support each others’ strengths, weaknesses, differences, similarities and all.

For better or worse, teachers set the tone for the classroom community.  In order to foster  little humans, the act of being human ourselves is not the only answer.  Sure our children should understand that we have good days and bad days as anyone else, but we should be thoughtful about it.  As educator, a teacher must take care of herself first the classroom is not the place for depression, arrogance, or ego. Sometimes we need to be performers.   

Whether we are experiencing painful events  outside of school, or looking for teaching moments within our classroom it is sometimes necessary to choose which pieces of our own life or self to carry to school with us.   I once heard a teacher in mourning for a loved one say, “Being here with the kids is so helpful to me.”  Yet in response to that same teacher, a parent I know was concerned that her child was so sad and worried for her teacher all the time she didn’t feel it was fair for the teacher to bring all that to school with her and lay it on her students.  In a different kind of situation I witnessed a teacher laugh it off when children laughed and cajoled after he knocked down some supplies at morning meeting.   I wonder was it his responsibility to act his own age and brush it off?  Or would the situation have been more suited to a little play acting?  At the very least, perhaps open up  a discussion about  how to react to foibles in a safe learning community.

I realize these were two well meaning teachers, and situations like this occur every day in classrooms around the globe.  Even just one techno mishap can result in a frazzled teacher and can effect the class.  We really do affect the weather in a classroom, but I hope that considering these experiences will drive my own growth and decisionmaking in the classroom. I will continue to gather thoughts and ideas that keep me thinking about how I could do it better than the last time, help more children, inspire more humanity.  I will continue to seek words from those who lead before me and soak up their inspiration.  I have come to the frightening conclusion that I want to be in the position to help create the kind of positive learning environment that allows children to be both different and themselves, to grow and yet remain the same.



Here I am, like you all, just beginning 2013.  I have been ruminating for days over what to write for this post.      I have been asking myself, "What would be a great kickoff to the New Year?"  I haven't come up with anything earth shaking, so I will just start with my first day of 2013, and my five personal New Year's Goals for the year that start right here. It is the most positive day of the year for me, and I think the rest of the family as well, unless you are the poor guy or girl to show up late due to a hangover, at which point you get your 10 minutes of fame, ie. serious ribbing from "loving family" who've been there done that. . .  This year, my first goal became apparent before we even left the house.

For 2013, unlike others before it, I was reminded on day 1, via email, that I have a 5 class credit with my yoga instructor!  That is a great way to start the year, and I take it as a sign, because I am just a little bit fatalistic, but equally optimistic that sometimes there are signs of things to come.  So I start my day, my year with dancing and singing around my house like a happy fool, because I have one less obstacle to jumpstarting my yoga practice this year.  New Year's Goal  #1:  dance and sing like a fool it's good for you (don't let anyone try to tell you otherwise) . . .and find a way to do what you love (I really love yoga)

For 2013, like many before it, we packed our New Year's selves up with gifts and food to hang out with family at the kids Great Grammy's house.  We gather, kids, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grammy, ages 4 to 94.  We talk, laugh, eat tasty food, and rib each other mercilessly about foolish foibles past and present.  We go out in the freezing cold and snow to play our traditional football game so there will be more foibles to laugh about next year.  New Year's Goal #2:  Laugh.  simply laugh. open silly emails you usually recycle and laugh.  New Year's Goal #3:  Continue to grow familiy traditions is a must, especially with generations of "kids" 4-94 to reap the benefits.

After football we eat desert, more than one, because it tastes good , but then we forgo supper that night. New Year's Goal #4: go nuts, but know when to quit.   Find balance people.

Overall, our New Year's Day get togethers are thought of fondly and looked forward to by all.  Even when we were the one ribbed on the year before, even when the day starts with 2 or 3 kids fighting in the car for a half an hour, or when we know we will be the one ribbed on this year for any number of random and subjective conditions.   For me New Year's Day always boils down to fun, family, love, and food.  I always think of the day by recalling the good stuff.  New Year's Goal #5: Notice the Good stuff, let the rest go.  We can use this every day, with our kids, with our students, with our coworkers, with our friends, with ourselves.  Notice the good stuff and build  from there.