One of my favorite things about being a teacher is the chance you get each year to start again. We are blessed with two New Years celebrations! With school starting in a few weeks, this fresh start brings all the hopes and resolutions we usually reserve for January when we usher in a new calendar year.
I loved reading about other teachers' One Little Words (OLW) that would help them focus on their priorities and dreams for themselves and their students. I decided to make a OLW for the new school year and it was a hard decision because there were so many words that were important. Some words I considered were Connections, Believe, Bridges, Community, and Expectations. All important, excellent words. But in the end, I chose Relationships as my OLW for 2015-2016.
Last year was a year of many changes for me. After 10 years of being a kindergarten teacher, I switched to third grade. There was so much to learn and I think at times, I let the curriculum drive me instead of the students. I pushed on when I knew they were confused because the calendar said I needed to go to the next lesson. I got wrapped up in what I was teaching but forgot, at times, about who I was teaching. No more. The theme for the Summer Literacy Institute in Merrick, NY this July was "A curriculum of children" and the facilitators reminded us that it's the children that we need to always keep at the heart of what we are doing and why we are doing it.
For me, "Relationships" is a word that will remind me that it is the interactions I have each day that matter. Maya Angelou was one of the kindest, wisest people to walk this earth, in my opinion. I love her quote above and it rings true in every memory I have. I don't remember specifics about what teachers taught me through the years, but I can tell you the ones who made me feel safe, valued, and believed in me, pushed me to be better while nurturing my soul.
Relationships also relates to my colleagues, my administrators, the parents, and the communities I take part in as a teacher, both face to face and online. It means seeing the best in people instead of seeing the flaws. It means giving someone the benefit of the doubt. It means bringing positive energy. It means choosing kindness and respect. It means remembering each and every child in my classroom is another person's whole world and needs to be treated with tender care. It means going the extra mile and not expecting favors to be returned. It means speaking up sometimes and being quiet at other moments. It means caring, truly caring, about everyone I encounter and taking the time to ask how things are going, to offer a smile.
As a parent myself, what I want most from my children's teachers is first that they like them. That they see they are precious, curious, beautiful children. They are my world. I know I will be so much more receptive to hearing anything my kids need to work on if I first know that the teacher really likes them and sees their worth. As a teacher, I need to make sure the students know I like them and see their worth. I also need to communicate that to the parents. Relationships matter.
Where would I be without the positive relationships in my life, without the people who loved me all along the way and encouraged me? I've been blessed with family and friends who have been very good to me my whole life and many teachers and mentors who helped me along the way. What about the students in my class who might not have that support at home, for whatever the reason? I could be the only adult in that child's life who is able to communicate to the child how important and special he/she is. What a responsibility and what a gift to be able to do that for a child.
I hope to share some ideas this year about ways I am nurturing relationships and putting the students first, a curriculum of children. What is the OLW you are thinking of for the 2015-2016 school year?