There are things that make this old teacher’s heart go pitter pat. One of them is the opportunity to talk to teacher gonna-be’s about what worked in the good old days (and hopefully still will)! I have the privilege of doing just that this coming Thursday, so of course, I call up the old powerpoint and decide it needs a little up-dating. Now, everyone knows the teacher’s mantra…if it works for someone else, steal it and adapt it to make it work for you. I decided to go to the top…of the clock…and steal from Dave Letterman. I have a top ten ways to make school work. I won’t bore you with the entire list. I will share with you my favorites.
Number one on the list…catch someone doing something right. As an educator, I frequently was drawn into the “find it wrong” syndrome. If a child misbehaved, I called the parent. If a child got on my nerves, I took him/her home at night and stewed (and shared with my espoused!) It took a long time for me to instigate my 50/50 proposition. If I had to contact a parent about a behavior problem, I contacted another parent of a child who had done something “right” during the day. Any time I had to send out failure slips, I also sent out “good” letters thanking the parents for the wonderful child they had entrusted to me. I discovered that I was finding more and more positives and fewer and fewer negatives. My attitude improved. My classroom improved, and to this day, I have students come up and say, “Do you remember that letter you sent my folks? They still have it!” I wonder how many of them kept the failure slips? I’ll tell my group to steal this idea.
Number 2—While you teach them the ABC’s, also teach them the RMB’s! Poetic, isn’t it? What are the RMB’s you ask (or if you didn’t, you should have!) There are three.
- Respect Must Be Given. It is my philosophy that every living thing deserves respect from the get-go. It is not something you earn. Instead, it is something you can lose. Until there is a reason, respect must be given.
- Responsibility Must Be Accepted. We make a number of choices every day. Some of them are right. Take the credit for those. Some of them are wrong. Take the credit for those as well. Own your mistakes, appease them where and when you can, learn from them always, and move on.
- Reputations Must Be Earned. If you want to be known as a nice person, you must be nice. If you want to be known as a bully, shame on you. But you earn your titles!
Number 3—Do the math. Too often, we follow the wrong formula—circumstance + circumstance + circumstance = who you are. Totally fallacious. We cannot control from whence we cometh. If we were born poor, it’s not our fault. If we had less that loving parents, it’s not our fault. If we had no role models, it’s not our fault. Our circumstances often cannot be changed. And too often, they become the rationale for our behavior. The unfortunate thing is, the answer is incorrect! A better formula is--choice + choice + choice = who and what we become. It’s not the circumstance. It’s how we react to it! As Charles Swindol says, “we can play on that one string we have, and that is our attitude.” See note above about “fixing” the mistakes and realize that failure is an event, not a life style! Events can be excellent stepping stones!
So there you have three of the ten. Aren’t you thrilled I didn’t give you the other seven? I will attempt not to be this pedantic when I speak to the gonna-be’s. Hopefully, this will be able to discern how wonderful it is to teach; how rewarding it is to teach; and how it changed my life in so many positive ways. And hopefully, they will know they are loved! Just like you!