Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse I Love You
Go to work, do your best, don't outsmart your common sense
Never let your prayin knees get lazy
And love like crazy
from 'Love Like Crazy' by Lee Brice
What a great message for students, those words that echo in the chorus of this popular country song. It seems to me it covers everything we want for them to learn to be successful in their lives, every goal we as educators ought to have for our students.
Be a best friend:
If we can teach students to approach each person as if they were indeed their best friend, we could eliminate much of the hurt and bullying in schools today. Acceptance is the first step to peaceful interactions. Best friends tolerate each other's shortcoming, quirks and failures.
If each child had a best friend, someone they could turn to in their life, someone who loved them no matter what, think how much stronger our students would be as individuals. We need to work with students to find and forge strong bonds with each other.
Schools need to focus more on building the child's inner strengths, teaching them skills to cope and grow. In today's educational world, with budget cuts and teacher layoffs, too much focus on high stakes test scores, we are losing sight of what our true underlying responsibilites are to the future generations. It isn't all about book learning, it is about helping them grow into people we want to live next door to.
Tell the truth:
Teaching middle school is an adventure. Kids do dumb things ALL the time. I tell them that's OK. Just be honest. I can much easier deal with the kid who constantly screws up but fesses up, "Yes, Mrs. George, I was talking and I know I shouldn't have been." than the one who lies and denies. I am a clean slate person. Chances are, once I tell the student to stop whatever it is they are doing, the dirty deed has escaped my radar. All I want is for them to move on as well.
We live in a society where truth does not always trump. Our students watch their heros dodge the truth, watch politicians get caught in deceptive circles of untruths. In school, we must make sure to value truth above all else.
Overuse I love you:
Our students need to know we love them, unconditionally, whether they are smart, or popular, have the right clothes, come to school clean or dirty, have friends, follow the rules.... They need to have the assurance that we, their teachers, hold them special in our hearts, regardless.
If we can model that kind of unconditional love for our students, we can help them become more tolerant citizens, more kind to others, and more accepting of differences.
Go to work:
At least half of the determining factor in whether or not you will successful in any venture is do you actually show up, physically and mentally for the challenge. Students, and often parents, do not understand the importance of being in school day after day, arriving on time, and really BEING THERE while they are there. School is not a passive sport. Learning requires participation and hard work, and most of all, the physical presence of being there, in the classroom.
I am always at a loss when parents pull students out for extended periods of time for a family vacation. How can I possibly give them work to make up for all the class experiences they will miss while they are gone? Learning is about working with others, problem solving, trying, trying again, exploring, failing. That cannot be replicated on a worksheet copied and sent along to be completed in the backseat of a car ride.
Our students need to see us at work, day after day, doing what we should be, being "there" for them from the minute they walk in the door, until the final bell rings, accepting responsibility for all the hats we are expected to wear each day, doing it with a smile and an acceptance of our job.
Do your best:
I don't care if my students are "A" kids or "C" kids, as long as I know they have given their honest 100% effort in whatever they tackle, whatever I give them to try. It frustrates me to no end to see how willing many students are to settle for 'good enough' though. Instilling a sense of pride in students, a feeling of they have given it their all is tough sometimes.
One way I have discovered to help encourage 100% effort is to display student work. When they know their project will be hanging in the hall, students are more likely to care about the final product. It is all about an authentic audience.
Don't outsmart your common sense:
Teenagers have great instincts, about themselves, about others, and about life in general. We, as their role models, have to encourage them to go with their gut instinct, trust themselves to make the right decisions.
Often, we as adults are so centered on being the 'police force' to keep them out of trouble, we take away their responsibilty for learning to listen to that little voice of reason they all intuitively know is right. We spend so much time and effort keeping them under control, we force them to lost their own ability to think for themselves.
Never let your prayin' knees get lazy:
We are a nation founded on religious freedom, but we've come so far from that belief in our society, that schools are afraid to even mention a child's spirituality. If we embraced each different belief system, encouraged students to accept and learn about others, we could create a more accepting generation.
It isn't about teaching religion in schools, or even praying in school. It is about acknowledging the need for each child to have a belief system in place.
And love like crazy....
We need to give our students a zeal and zest for life, for learning, and for each other in our classrooms. We need to teach them to be spontaneous, unpredictable, flexible, boisterous, and to laugh. We need to love them all unconditionally, and teach them to love us back.