Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sometimes You Have to Look from a Different Vantage Point

Remember the moment in the movie "Dead Poet's Society" when Robin Williams makes the kids stand on the desk? Robin Williams' character said (paraphrased) sometimes you have to look from a different vantage point.  My story for today is the moment in my teaching career when I completely understood what he was saying.

About fourteen or so years ago, I was on a honor choir trip with five students. Four of the students were the cool, popular kids and the other one, whom I will call Mike, was the 'ask-too-many-questions and try-to-hard' kid. Nothing really wrong with him, but he sort of wore on everyone's nerves. 

As misfortune would have it, I always take the students to this beautiful area near Decorah, Iowa which has a natural spring coming out of a big bluff.  It is picturesque at any time of year. The year of this story was no different. But what was different was that the area was covered in ice. I carefully walked up the side of the spring and the kids did their usual exploring.  But, just as we were heading back to the van, I slipped on the ice and fell. In the process, I actually hit so hard that I smashed and broke my glasses and severely bruised my leg.....and learned a big lesson.

I was afraid to move for a few seconds. I was positive I had broken something. When I finally got my wits around me, Mike, the social misfit, was barreling toward me to help. The 'cool' kids continued on toward the van. I was still on the ground when Mike reached me and as I looked up at him, my perspective had completely changed.  Social misfit? Perhaps... Caring wonderful kid? Not one doubt. Not that the other kids were heartless, but they had their own agenda. 

I had always been kind to Mike. Maybe more than other teachers. But, I never saw THAT side of him. Wow, what a great lesson.  So, all these years later, how does this lesson connect to my current life.  I try very hard to never look at what everyone else sees wrong with a kid. I always try to listen to different opinions and try to care about them all....even the ones that are hard to like.  I can promise you that I have found many more diamonds in the rough in my years in the classroom.  Every kid deserves someone who is on their side and who 'gets' them.

I can safely say I have navigated my way away from the 'teachers work room' for at least ten years. Everyone needs to vent when kids are annoying or naughty. However, it was the constant barrage of 'educators' who could never look for a different side that ultimately wore me out. Vent? Sure, I do that a lot. But, I also try to find the good side....and I can tell you some of them are very well hidden!  Truth be told, I always forgive a kid because they are kid....they aren't done yet. Adults? Yeah, I have trouble there.

So, if you think you have seen all sides of a kid......look at them from a different angle.

By the way, the area of the great epiphany is in the picture above, just below the log on the right side of the photo.


Anonymous said...

Great blog. I think we have all met that kid.


diane said...

And I think we have all been that teacher. The Great Ones let these moments change them.

Karin said...

Great post! I wish more teachers would step away from the staff lounge and take time to view kids from a different angle. Some of the 'toughest' kids have been my favorites (oops teachers aren't supposed to have favorites) because I enjoy finding their 'soft side' and making that connection.