Last winter I was volunteering in the building where I went to kindergarten and first grade. I have been there many days but one day in particular I began reflecting on my experiences there as a student. The teachers I had are retired now but the memories that I have of them live on forever in my mind.
Kindergarten, from what I remember, was great. First grade – eh. Apparently my first grade teacher liked me but I was less than thrilled with her.
I am a sensitive person and have been since the day I was born. Over the years, I’ve learned how to work with and embrace that piece of my personality. But back when I was little, it was difficult. So I’ll never forget that one time, in first grade, when I was eating a fruit roll-up and it got stuck around my loose tooth. I went to my teacher in tears because I was so upset. She had no patience for my problem and it really hurt my feelings.
Now, the 28 year old me understands that every person is different and they respond to things differently…but the 6 year old me did not understand that. I think about this a lot when I am responding to my students. The things we say, as teachers, impacts them in ways we cannot even begin to understand.
Let me give you an example.
At the end of the day, things can get crazy in a classroom – we all know that. You’re managing kids packing up, getting kids where they need to be, helping who needs to be helped and that’s not even the half of it. It occurred to me one day that I can be very short in my responses to my kids when it gets a little crazy at dismissal time. I’m not mad – I’m just busy. My mind is going in a million different directions and I am not as chipper as I always am.
One of my flaws I guess.
But what I realized was that my short responses, at the end of the day, were impacting my kids. I could see it in their body language. The next day I sat down with all my kids and explained that when it’s the end of the day sometimes my responses are short and my tone might be different, but that doesn’t mean I’m upset…I’m just busy.
After that conversation, my kids had a better understanding of who I was as a person. We are human and as perfect as I’d like to be…it’s just not possible. (I’m secretly still trying though!) But what is possible is explaining to my kids to help them better understand why Miss Puuri might respond the way she does at the end of the day.
Now, I’m not giving us an excuse to not talk nicely to kids and then say it’s nothing – because that’s not what my point is.
My point is, what kind of impact do you want your words to have on kids? If I could talk to 6 year old me, I would probably tell her not to worry about what her teacher said. I would also tell her that sometimes when people say things, it can come across like they don’t care – but really they do.
Unfortunately, I cannot go back in time. But what I can do, and you can as well, is think about our word choice with kids. Do you want to have a positive impact? Or a negative impact? Your actions and words speak volumes to kids…choose wisely.