Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Deep Thoughts at TJ On a Journey....

In the car today, I drove by an area that was devastated by tornado and flooding. Thankfully, there weren't any houses nearby this particular area, but it lead me to have some deep thoughts.

Water -- We all need it to survive. We thirst for it on hot days and we play in it. People like me could sit and watch water and dream. At the lake over the weekend, I spent a great many content minutes just staring into the water. My office is filled with sailboat pictures and water themed prints (and a few by Peter H. Reynolds!). Water is the same substance that caused devastating damage to my area just a few months ago. Water can be heaven or hell.

Wind -- I can say for certain that when we were in San Antonio and the temperatures were near 100, the wind felt like heaven. Yet it was wind, in the form of a tornado, that destroyed one third of a town not far from my house.

Kids -- Back when I used to duck into the teachers' "workroom," I was amazed by some of the students that would be discussed. Many times, I would ask if we were thinking of the same kids. Someone would be bashing a kid that had always been really decent to me and I would be amazed at how are views were different. I will be honest and say that I don't always have the best things to say either....and I have received the same incredulous look I have given. How can a kid be totally different for one teacher than for another?

I have a theory about the rain, the wind, and the kid. All of us have healing and restorative powers that sit right along side the destructive and pain-inducing powers. The powers we use are a result of the experiences we have had and the atmosphere we perceive. I remember getting along very well with a student that most teachers weren't successful with. Mostly I got along with her because I held her to very strict rules, but I never got angry. The kid had enough strikes against her, she really didn't need my wrath. If a kid were ever going to make me angry, she would have been the one. But it was important for me to hold her to the rules without overreacting. For me, she was the swift flowing stream that got very near the banks on many occasions. For others, she was like flooding..... 500 year flood. The difference? My attitude and behavior.

OK, before you start thinking I have a high opinion of myself (I would be thinking that if I were reading this).... I have failed many times with kids. I have lost my temper. I have yelled.... But I think I have also learned so much in the last twenty-two years of teaching (I know you are now thinking I am old). My friend Teresa always shares the quote, "What kind of person do I want to be?" I want to be the strong rule keeper who loves the kids and wants what is best for them. I want to bring out the best in kids....because I know there will be plenty of chances for them to show the worst.

How does the atmosphere in your room effect the weather of student behavior? What will you do to bring out the gentle streams and cool breezes?


diane said...

Thanks for making me think about this, Terry.

I think what I do best is listen. I try to blot out the clothing and the body ornamentation and hear the Voice.

The students are, without exception, wonderful to interact with, one to one. Away from their peers, away from
other adults, they will sometimes let down their guard and connect on a human level.

If that makes their life easier, I'm certainly willing to invest the time to make it happen.

I wish more teachers had done the same for me.

Kobus van Wyk said...

Lovely thoughs. Sometimes one views the kids as objects - your posting reminds one that they are humans, each one the centre of their own little universe. And we are there to make a difference (although some of them make it difficult for us to do so!).

As in so many other things, I believe that ICT could help the teacher. Consider how patient a computer is; it will explain over and over and over (if the kid keeps on pressing the button) and the learner could do a task over and over and over, without the computer getting impatient. When dealing with a large class, this could help the teacher to stay cool, reseving emotional energy for teaching, coaching and mentoring.

Thanks for helping your readers to reflect on why they are in the classroom.

loonyhiker said...

I love how you tie all of these elements together. I also think it is okay for kids to see us lose our tempers and see how we handle it. That is another way we prepare them for the real world because they will work for people who lose their tempers and they need to know how to alleviate the situation. I also know that students can pick up on the moods of the teacher. When I don't feel well, even though I don't say anything, many times the kids are more sensitive and try to behave. If I'm in a nasty mood, I try to tell the kids so they know if I snap at them, it is not personal. They of course love it when I'm in a good mood. I have 2 stuffed animals that I keep on my desk. The pink dinosaur means all is well, but if the green bull is up, it means give me some space, I'm not having a good day. Sometimes a student may ask to put it on their desk and I let them.

Marilyn said...

Great post, Terry. It made me think of this poem about the tone of voice you use - http://bit.ly/2Sz7F0.

mindelei said...

I love how you have related the weather to emotions and attitude and how they alter the very essence of a classroom full of students. Good food for thought.