Sunday, April 15, 2012

Our Lasting Impressions

My seventh grade English teacher crawled across the desks when he read a passage from The Pearl to us. I still remember the passage and the power of the language that John Steinbeck used. My high school Latin teacher taught us that semper ubi sub ubi means always wear underwear. He taught us many more words and structures of Latin and we learned them because he was funny and passionate about his teaching. My third grade teacher kept our entire class after school when the minutes that she tallied on the board that we wasted on transitions added up to sixty. I can still recite the apology letter I had to write to my parents for inconveniencing them because I had to stay after school.

Teachers have power. When I first started teaching I had the quote by Haim Ginott hanging on my bulletin board and I came across this quote again.

"I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. 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 humor, hurt 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 de-humanized."

I have hung it up again so that it reminds me of my daily power. We all make many decisions throughout the day--there’s some ridiculous number of how many decisions a teacher makes in a day that I’m sure I could google and quote, but really, we make much more than just decisions because we make moods and we make memories.

Mel wrote a post this week about mindsets and I hope that students remember that we challenged them to think about themselves as learners. We’ve read them great books and I hope that they remember that they loved books in our room. We’ve been writers together with them and we have allowed each other to critique our pieces, so I hope that they remember that great writing is never really a final draft. I hope that they remember that math has many real life applications and that they really have to know their multiplication facts. And I hope that they remember that they were valued, honored, and inspired as learners. Will they? Some might remember me as relentless or as a tough critic. I think I’d be okay with those memories as well. 

I’m having an especially reflective day today since I attended the funeral of a close friend and we are now driving over eight hours toward Hilton Head. One of the speakers at the service quoted the speech that Jimmy Valvano delivered at the ESPY awards in 2003. (This is really worth the eleven minutes!) The motto for the foundation that Jimmy announced that evening is “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” What an amazing motto to hear this week in conjunction with the conversations we have had and the post Mel wrote about Mindset!

Jimmy also charged the audience with three important things to do every day. Laugh, think and cry. I hope that my students remember laughter and thinking in the classrooms that I share. While I can’t say that I cry every day I do hope that they remember that there have been books and moments when their great work has moved me to tears.

What about you? What lasting impressions are you creating? What do you want to create?

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