Carrie Gelson, one of my favorite ‘go to’ people for book ideas on her blog There’s A Book for That just wrote a post celebrating 20 years of teaching by sharing 20 things she’s learned throughout those years. I loved reading each one, and two would be placed at the top of my list, but this one, number 19, connected to my whole being: Be a storyteller. Our classrooms are a window into how we as a society look after our children. Speak up.
When I read Carrie’s words, I knew what I would write today. I’ve thought about this all day, and wonder if it’s a way to bring educators together in a common goal of kindness, and of course we must include the children. Part of the definition of society in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary is an organized group working together or periodically meeting because of common interests, beliefs, or profession or an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another. Above all we must have a common belief to be kind to one another. I am speaking up!
Can we use both a concrete and a metaphorical window to teach children to look more closely at their behavior? In both art and writing lessons, I used medium index cards and cut one inch squares in them, to help students to focus on the small things, the details. Is it possible to use these same windows, yes, index cards with one-inch squares, to help them see their world from different perspectives?
I imagine, with students, looking through our windows to help us discuss these questions:
· Can you see yourself being kind to someone new?
· Can you imagine, by looking through this imaginary window, a way to live through the day using words that are friendlier, more thoughtful?
· Can you look through the window and hear the words said, feel the feelings felt because of them?
· Do the scenes you see and hear need change, or are you satisfied with the way you have ‘painted’ them?
I have focused on students, but also think the questions should be asked of everyone, but especially those who work with children? There is that popular quote by the past wonderful psychologist Haim Ginott: 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.
If we help students see their own behavior through a window lens, we must look at ourselves also. It’s my story today. Enough said.