When I do teacher workshops I am consistently impressed with how much they care, how much they want help to do a better job for the children they work with. There is not a bit of ho hum energy in the crowd. I conducted one such a workshop today on building and maintaining community in the classroom and staff. At the end I always ask teachers to write down a few things they will take from the day. It helps me know what resonates, but in writing it they also remind themselves of what was important to them. This group offered a long list, but there were some frequently mentioned points, ones that other teachers might find helpful. So here are a few things they took from the workshop that might be useful to share.
1. Kids act as good as they know how. I say this in most workshops, but it is true and it helps us fight the right battle. To assume they “won’t” when they “can’t” causes us to waste lots of time thinking in terms of will rather than knowing it’s a matter of skill. When we get the interpretation right, then we can go about teaching the skill rather than trying to cajole or force an ability that isn’t there yet.
2. They come that way. If you have more than one child you know this already. While we can shape and encourage qualities in a child we also need to respect the power of inborn, hardwired temperament – in children and in each other. Some differences that colleagues view as intentional are sometimes as basic in adults as they are in children. Understanding that makes for happier faculty rooms and classrooms.
3. Life is short; childhood is shorter. Part of our jobs as we work hard to give youngsters a good education is also to protect that short and fragile period of childhood. On a recent show on aging one of the guests reported that we have added about 30 years to our lives. She pondered that maybe instead of 30 “senior” years we should add a little up front. To let children be there a little longer and to do the same for adolescence.
4. It is important to remember how much children and we need to feel like we belong and that our efforts at creating an environment of inclusion can keep kids from doing some crazy things to fit in. I shared a story of a reporter who interviewed me after a violent episode at a school. She asked what kids were most afraid of, such as guns or knives. I answered without hesitation, “Being left out!”
5. The importance of “small talk.” As we chat about our pets, gardens, favorite TV show or book we build relationships that help us deal with bigger issues from a place of familiarity and trust.
More to come from the notes, but if you know a teacher share this. If you are a teacher, thank you.