When I was a student teacher in Betsy’s first grade classroom, I asked her one day why she wore her Talbot’s dresses, pantyhose, and heels to work every day. She answered quickly with no hesitation.
“I think it makes the students feel like they are worth it.”
My clothing choices had much more to do with comfort and durability for getting on the floor, making a mess, and being “in it” with first graders.
Two points of view. Both very valid. I love that she considered the effect of her appearance on sending a message of “You are important. School is important.” Over the years, teacher dress has become more casual. At least at my school, jeans and your spirit-wear T-shirt are more the norm than even “business casual.” I’m not making a judgment, just an observation.
I remembered Betsy’s example today because I wore a dress, pantyhose, and dress shoes to work (not heels). It surprised me how many students noticed and gave me compliments. It was like my dress made the day more special for them. Even a bit of laughter came from my attire when a 2nd grader asked me if I had on “leggings.” She didn’t know what to make of my skin-colored legs! I had a great day, all day. Maybe I should wear dresses more often.
Tristan (age 5) entered my living room tonight and looked around.
“Dad. Why are there hearts up here? It’s MARCH!”
Yes, Tristan, it’s March, and Grandma still has the valentines hanging across the mantle. What you don’t know, Tristan, is that in the previous 45 Februaries, I never once had a Valentine’s Day decoration displayed. Grandma isn’t really the “decorate for every holiday” kind of Grandma.
My kids will tell you that I seemed to endure/tolerate holidays rather than celebrate them. If the holiday had music attached, such as Christmas and Easter, that was a different story. Music was and is how I celebrate.
Call me a party pooper, but holidays just don’t excite me. I resist the commercial tyranny. (I’m actually amazed that I just wrote that down.) I smile and am glad for others who enjoy celebrating, but truth be told, I pretty much wish Halloween would go away. I’m not Irish; love (especially in the Valentine sense) is complicated; and I’m more inclined to want to go for a hike than watch a parade.
So, yes, Tristan. There are hearts in March. Right now, that seems okay.
Most of the time, I am health conscious in my food choices. Most of the time, I try to exercise and practice yoga. Most of the time this works out pretty well for me. Most of the time.
But then, there’s that box of Milk Duds. Those imperfect chocolate-covered caramels that make such a satisfying wad of chewy sweetness call my name as I pass the candy aisle at CVS. I reach for the box wishing they still had the small-size box instead of the movie-size box. I know it will be hard to stop once I start.
I righteously refrain from opening the box when I get in the car. I take a drink of water instead. I tell myself I can wait until I get home after a few more errands. Deciding to ditch the errands, I just go home.
Maybe I’ll just have a few while I gather the laundry. I pop a few and get a load going. Back upstairs. Okay, just a few more while I sort the mail. “Oh, this is a good batch. So soft and mudluscious (thank you e.e. cummings) in my mouth.” I sit down to knit a few rows on a baby blanket while the wash is going. I knit and pop a few more Milk Duds. If I mindfully enjoy this chewy pleasure on Saturday afternoon, will it be more healthy?
This morning I was tying my right shoe and felt the heavy weight of depressive thoughts making it hard to get out the door to work. I was struggling. Then I switched to tie my left shoe. It was at that instant I had a little “gloment.” That’s the word that formed in my mind when a little glimmer of light eased its way inside. It was there and left a mark. Not like sunlight or even moonlight. Perhaps a twinkle like a star. Was it a flash of memory of my dad? Was it the comfort of a repetitive action like tying shoes? Was it the empty house full of 35 years of living? I don’t know, but I was grateful for that “gloment.” Maybe you’ll find that a useful word someday too.
I love thinking about words.
For some reason the word “crack” caught my interest.
Crack an egg.
A crack of thunder.
A hairline crack.
A crack in the wall.
A crack in the armor.
A crack shot.
Give me a crack at him.
You crack me up.
You’re on crack.
Crack the window.
Open it a crack.
So many meanings of one CCVCC word.
Such a spectrum of emotion from one word.
I’m reading a book called Lost at School by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D. I haven’t finished it yet, but have wished ever since I started it that I had known these ideas about handling challenging children when I was a mom with young children. I’m imagining that some of our conflicts might have been avoided.
This year we have a larger number of “explosive” children than I have experienced before in 20 years of teaching. Specific unsuccessful interactions have led me to do more reading about behavior. Dr. Greene’s book has the refreshing view that “children do well if they can.” I know I have named certain behaviors seen at school as willful, attention-seeking, or manipulative. I guess in the moment I have reacted emotionally and haven’t stopped to think what the teachable, behavioral skills might be which would allow a student to do well. I am humbled as I read and see where I still have so much room to grow. I know I need a larger toolbox for working with some students.
From my own experience I know that the most powerful influence we can have on children is through building relationships with them. Like many of you, I remember the teachers most who reached out to connect with me. Dr. Greene puts it this way:
Regardless of your role in school, if you want to help a kid, you’re going to need a helping relationship to accomplish the mission. Time and time again, research (and practical experience) has shown that the most reliable factor leading people change–by far–is the relationship they have with the person helping them change.
As a specialist, my time with students is limited to the 30-45 minutes I get to spend with them in various interventions. Sometimes I feel pressure (probably self-imposed) to work hard and then work hard some more. But when I take a few moments to really listen as my students engage me in conversation (rather than push forward into work-mode), I see their smiles. I learn about their families. I feel their insecurities and their strengths. I laugh with them. Then, I realize that the helping relationship is not just teacher helping student.
I am helped as a human being when I listen and connect to the students in front of me. I am lifted and carried on their energy. I’m no longer lost, but found.
Trying out the six-word memoir on a day that has been emotionally hard:
Walls of worry shroud my mind.
Threat of rain on the horizon.
Mama said, “This too shall pass.”
Let go of the striving mind.
Keep heart portals open to possibility.
Why does it hurt so much?