Humility. Patience. Kindness.
These are all words that I think of when I am walking into my classroom. These are life goals, personal goals, and professional goals that I try to meet every single day. As I drive to work each day, I try to not just think of the work that my students need to complete, copies that need to be made, an email to a parent that needs to go out first thing, etc. Of course all of those things are thought of and a mental list is created for the morning before kids walk into my room. But I honestly, try to remember my three goals. Humility. Patience. Kindness.
What does that even mean? Well, it means to have the heart of a learner. I tell my students to “trust the process.” If I am not willing to do just that, to try new teaching techniques or be willing to receive feedback from a colleague or administrator, then I have not achieved humility. To be humble means to be willing to learn, willing to have a conversation, and willing to ask for support when needed. The power of “YET” is a big thing in my classroom. If we don’t know it now, it just means we don’t know it YET! But I know I will at some point. Model this mindset for your students. They will appreciate to see that you, the amazing teacher that you are, are still trusting the process and learning along the way. It is a small, but great step on the path toward being better at being you.
This one's a doozy! I have heard from an amazing wise man, that we will always have an opportunity to practice the area in which we need to grow the most. Well, you’ve guessed it. Patience is mine. For as long as I can remember, I have been one of those people who has always want “it” right now!!! :) I laugh to myself right now because, I can see how exhausting it is to live a life of “right now.” Isn’t it better to “just be?” It is better to be in the moment of your life that is good, bad, or mediocre (insert voice snippet from Mad Max: Fury Road). To be patient means to enjoy the classroom conversation, yes being mindful of the clock, but not rushing the learning and creative process. How often do we rush to get through the lesson/curriculum? Too often the expectation is to see how fast we can get to the end of the trip rather than stopping along the way to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. Patience… just be. Enjoy the ride.
This past Friday, I shared the video, Imagine by John Lennon with my students. So often people are judged by the way they look, where they live, the clothes they wear, how they learn, etc. These personal biases are sometimes passed down generation-to-generation. But think… I enter my classroom with a perspective and so does each one of my students. I wanted to show the Unicef version of the video because it has people from all over the world singing the beautiful and inspiring lyrics of John Lennon. My kids could not only hear but see diversity. We live in world that is filled with so much hate, judgement, closed mindedness that in order to create a growth mindset, in order to create a better tomorrow, we MUST start with kindness. If I do only one thing, teach my students one lesson, let it be that of kindness. I hope that they will learn to be kind to one-another, tolerant of one-another, to seriously treat others the way they want to be treated. On a side note, yes, I cry every time I hear that song because it is an honest hope of mine - that we may live in peace. Kindness is the first step.
I may not achieve these goals on a daily basis, but by golly, I sure will try. I commit myself to striving toward these life goals. Your life goals may look differently. But they are your goals. That is amazing! Strive to be your best self and you will teach your students, and all you encounter, what it means to be a good human. That is my life goal. What’s yours?
Education is and will continue to be filled with a multitude of personal and professional lessons that I have learned both inside and out of the classroom. I have learned a great deal about who I want to be as a human and as an educator. I guess the purpose of this blog is to share some of my insights from the past nine years and put it out there for the world to read. You may glean from it what you will, but I hope, as I hope for my all of my students, that you will learn an important little nugget to apply to your life so that you may have a positive impact on those around you.
When I think of the beginning of a school year, I think of a wheel. Not just any wheel, but a ferris wheel. This ferris wheel is huge, sitting on the top of a mountain that has trees, snow, rocks, and a very narrow road. There is a long line to get onto this ride. In fact, the line curves back and forth down the side of the mountain. People have to stand close to the side of the mountain for fear of slipping down. But there you are safely perched at the top of the rock. You’re next, awaiting your turn on the ferris wheel. You are scared. This is the highest you have ever been. Yes, you have been on a ferris wheel before, but those other wheels were smaller; closer to safety and the comforts of your personal limits. Even though the ride is free, it requires that you must make a choice as to how you enjoy your experience. You can sit and hold on for dear life. You can keep track how long this ride will last before you can finally get off and move on with your day. Or you can embrace the beauty of the ride and try to enjoy every moment.
Ideally, I would hope you apply this metaphor to your classroom experiences. The ferris wheel represents a brand new school year and classroom filled with students. Each student waits in line to get into your classroom and has an idea of what to expect, but bases that on previous experiences. Maybe your student experienced motion sickness the last time he was on the ride. Maybe he had so much fun that his expectations are super high. Maybe he had a mediocre experience and now he is not pumped about learning. The point being that our job is to make learning engaging, exciting, and fun. Our job is to also protect, guide, and hold students accountable. The reality is that the ride will be scary, it will have boring times, it will have moments of sheer beauty. To say that the ride will be all sunshines and rainbows is just unrealistic. A student will probably experience all of those moments over the course of the year. Guess what, that is okay. But the ultimate hope as educators is that our students walk away from ride having something positive to remember. Something that was learned, accomplished, and gleaned from a year of growth.
My hope is that you enjoy the ride too. One glance to right or left can completely change the perspective of the viewer… Enjoy the ride and have a great year.
Mena T. Hill
Educator, Wife, Mother, Colorado Native