School is a laboratory where we help students discover who they are, what they can be, and how far they can go. We do it with love, time, attention, and by teaching them that learning, like success, is a process, an adventure of discovery where we learn from our mistakes and build on our successes.
School and life are adventures in which we learn that everyone is special, including ourselves; that no one is perfect; that the people in our lives are more important than things; that diversity is a gift and that the color of our skin, hair, and eyes are nothing more than different shades of beauty; that the more we give of ourselves in love, work, and play, the more we get in return; that every job, well-done, adds an element of beauty to the world; and that life is a precious gift.
We want our students to learn there are no guarantees in life. There will be joy and heartache; victories and defeats; justice and injustice; good luck and bad; hardship and plenty, and they will delight in their blessings, and strive to overcome their troubles.
We must teach them that they are just like us. Throughout our lives, we must cling to the faith that nothing that can happen to us or that someone can do to us can diminish the meaning in our lives or our value as human beings. At the deepest moments of despair and suffering, the answer is to summon our strength, pick ourselves up and look around for someone to help or something that needs done. And, at our highest moments of joy and happiness we need to find someone with whom we can share.
As teachers, we are blessed to have one of the most important jobs in the world and that gives us an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. There will be challenges to be sure, but throughout the worst of it we need to cling to the belief that the most difficult kids in our classrooms are the ones who need us the most. They need the absolute best from us. Their behavior is nothing more than children testing the limits of our love, patience, and commitment. How hard they fight us is simply a measure of how much they must overcome in their lives to be whole.
As important as we think it is that our students pass the tests we give them, it is that much more important that we pass the tests our students and our own children administer to us. We will not be successful with every child and it is not because of something lacking in ourselves unless we know we have done less than our best.
I shared a story, recently, from my career as a juvenile probation officer and supervisor. One of the young probation officers assigned to my team had talked to me, on several occasions, about a thirteen-year-old probationer. She said she wasn’t getting through to him and asked me what I thought. I didn’t know what to suggest but I did think to ask how often he misses his appointments. She said that even though he skips school, occasionally, he had never missed. My only advice to her was not to give up and to keep trying.
I could see the door to her office from my desk and, one day, I noticed that the young man had come in. A while later I happened to look up as he left her office. He turned toward the exit of our office and she walked out behind him and turned in the opposite direction. Seconds later the kid sneaked back into her office for just a few seconds and then he was gone.
I waited for her to return and told her what had happened. She just shook her head and we both returned to our desks. Moments later, she came back to my office and sat down with tears flowing. She showed me a piece of candy he had left on her chair.
“He never says a single word,” she reminded me, “and now, he did this!”
The lesson we both learned that day was that we may never know when something we do or say will make a difference in someone’s life. The only thing we can do is to keep striving, always giving our best effort to meet the needs of our students.
We must place teachers and students at the center of our education process. Everything around them must exist to serve the mission of leading our students through an adventure of discovery. Please examine my education model to see one way this can be done. Maybe you can come up with another way? https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/