Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Focus On Who Students Are Becoming, Not Just Who They Are Right Now

I'm thankful I don't always get what I deserve. Sometimes maybe I've gotten worse, but far more often I've been blessed far beyond what I merited. It's because people believed in me even when I didn't have a clue. And the people who believed in me had a great influence on me.

As educators, we are working with immature human beings. They are kids. Of course, there are plenty of adults who still haven't matured, but that's what we're trying to avoid. We want to help students develop into mature, responsible grownups.

But it can be very challenging. As a teacher, you know you will be mistreated. It's just part of working in a school with kids who bring all their junk with them each day. We should also remember we're bringing our fair share of junk too.

Students are going to challenge your kindness. They aren't always going to appreciate your offers of help. They don't always respond the way we would like them to. And that's why it's important to keep a long-term perspective. Today may have been a really bad day. But let's make sure we have a fresh start tomorrow.

Let's focus on who students are becoming, not just who they are right now. The temptation is to treat students as they deserve. 

I'll treat them with dignity when they act with dignity. I'll show respect when they earn it. I'll show them kindness and help them when they live up to my expectations.

But what if we tried a different approach? What if we extend grace and treat them better than they deserve? What if we focused on showing them we believe in them? Why not try something different?

Today, as I was greeting kids coming into school, I got a good morning high five from a student who has been less than respectful to me this year. I was shocked. More than once, I've thought about directly addressing some of the passive-aggressive behaviors I've felt from the student. 

And that would've been a perfectly appropriate response. In fact, I think some teachers probably need to be more assertive in setting boundaries and communicating expectations. I never want to condone bad behavior. Accountability is important, but the most important thing is growth. Sometimes growth comes from giving someone space to grow.

So in this case, I decided to just continue being nice. I decided to keep smiling, saying hello, and brushing off the subtle offenses. I decided to treat the student with the most care and concern I could muster. And maybe it's working? The high five this morning was a good sign. But only time will tell.

When you extend grace, it can turn a heart around. Instead of allowing a student to create an adversarial relationship, refuse to be part of that. Continue with kindness.

How will you interact with your students? Will you treat them as they deserve? Or will you treat them like they might just change the world someday? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

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