The best part of my Thanksgiving celebration was listening to siblings and cousins, aged 15 to 20, talking about what they had in common, the focus of their lives, school. They are what the world would consider successful students. Good grades, ya da, ya da. I just listened and learned.
I got in trouble. I was always talking back. Don’t know why I did that. It wasn’t what she said, it was how she said it.
This comment was from my son. Now he never got any real trouble in school. Never a trip to the principal’s office. Teachers consistently put that comment on his report cards, “Pleasure to have in class.” Yet what stuck out for him was how he got in trouble in kindergarten. I know for a fact that the majority of kindergarten was a good experience. But what this 19-year old held on to was how he got in trouble.
Wow. A tiny bit of negative is so powerful. Powerful and kinda scary. I don’t blame the teacher at all. He probably did something wrong and needed to be held accountable.
Thinking about the second part of his comment is interesting. Don’t know why I did that. He wasn’t sure why he kept talking back. Students aren’t always aware or mindful of their actions we are holding them accountable for.
This brings me to the third part. It wasn’t what she said, it was how she said it. Ah, there is the crafty part. How we say it. The outcome can seem to be the same, yet the means to getting there so very different. How we get there may matter more than what we get our students to do.
This brings me to another bit of conversation about a teacher:
She shared the perfect amount of stories and she’d listen to our stories. I learned a lot in that class, but I didn’t really appreciate it till later.
Wow. Stories matter, what we share and how we listen matter. And sometimes that learning isn’t realized till later.
My children and nieces are those successful students. They didn’t give up or as “get off the bus as @teachkate and @MaggieBRoberts share in their blog. But what about those fragile, for whatever reason, students that look like they are on the edge, how we say it, how we get there matters. That may just keep them on that bus. We are not “just teachers.” We have a tremendous responsibility to keep students present and engaged in their process.
Here are some lessons I’m taking away from my 2013 Thanksgiving table:
The process creates outcomes.
Stories help us along our path.
Outcomes are not always apparent.
Most of all, listening matters.