"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.

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