Ask the Students
Optimism is a quality that flavors everything all day long. We can expect the best in our lives and therefore give the universe an opportuntity to attract good things our way. Or we can worry and grumble about the bad things that always seem to invade our space. It is a choice we make every day.
Every year I ask students to identify great teachers from their lives. Then we write letters to them.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that they describe the teacher’s personal qualities more often than they talk about the academic material that they learned.
Again and again I hear these comments…
He likes to make jokes when he teaches.
He is so enthusiastic.
She doesn’t treat us like we are kids.
She is interested when we have problems.
We want to spend time with people who make us feel good. Our students do too. They are attracted to adults, parent, grandparents and teachers who are optimistic.
The Money Jar
One of the differences I noticed between elementary aged children and teens is the lack of optimism that seems to prevail in the adolescent species. Sometimes it seems like being optimistic isn’t cool. When young children walk into your classroom, they are excited to see you and be in school. They ask right away, “What do we get to do today?”
However, when teens walk in and I say, “Hi Tyler! How are you this morning?” One hundred percent of the time they say, “Tired,” or “I don’t feel good.” It can be downright depressing if you let it get to you. I finally told my teens they had to give me a quarter for my reward jar every time they told me they were tired. Did it stop them? No. But it made them think. Now when I ask them how they are, they say things like, “I’d tell you, but it would cost me money.”
When I worked with teens on a daily basis, I had to listen to upbeat music on the way to school. I used motivational or inspirational CDs in the car. Do whatever it takes to remain optimistic for our students. They need it from us.
On a Personal Note
Every activity I write about is part of my personal teaching life. Every story I tell is true. On a rare occasion I talk about an experience with one of my children or grandchildren and explain lessons that they have taught me and ways they have changed me as a teacher.
Other than that I don’t mention my personal life very often. Today I’m going to break that silence just a little. In December my husband suffered a heart attack and a stroke. I was absent on my Christmas Eve post because we spent 12 days in the hospital including all of the holidays. This past Friday he had his second stroke. We came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon. Yes, it is a bit stressful and emotional. But there is always a choice in how we react. I’m focusing on the progress he is making every day as his language gradually returns to him. I’m feeling grateful that this stroke revealed a new heart issue that we didn’t know he had. I’m believing his situation is temporary. If I adopt a gloom and doom attitude, will it make anything better? No. It will rob us of the small joys we have everyday.
It is how we live our lives everyday that impacts our students (and children) the most.
TEACH…To Change Lives
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