The start of the school year always puts a smile on my face. Even as a former teacher for many years, the excitement in a brand new year filled with possibility and positivity brings joy to me in so many ways.
We have a clean slate today is what I used to tell my students on the first day of school. I taught teenagers who had their own set of challenges and beliefs from past years and judgments from teachers who may or may not have understood them. They brought their own baggage to my classroom consisting of how they were treated, what their beliefs were about their knowledge and potential and added to it all was the expectation that this year would be the same as in the past.
I obliterated all of that on the first day of class with one small sentence.
You have an A in this class as of right now and your job is to keep it.
It was a message that I adopted from a movie with Michelle Pfeiffer years ago called Dangerous Minds. In the movie, she was an ex-Marine turned teacher who struggled to connect with her students in an inner city school. Granted it was a movie, but the theme of choice in keeping the A grade worked for her and worked wonders for me as well, even though I was not teaching in an inner city.
That simple sentence and mindset worked its magic for us all! It gave the freedom of choice to every student’s mind as to whether they wanted to keep the A gift or not. It gave them responsibility to keep the A which is harder than to earn an A I think. It gave them peace to know they began with an A, but the responsibility was theirs to maintain the efforts to keep the gift.
Even when the gossip was that X student was troubled or Y student was lazy or Z student was rambunctious in class, I reminded them that I did not listen, nor did I pay attention to idle stories of their past performance in school. What was important to me (and important for them to understand) was that from this day forward, it mattered what we did together in this classroom. I gave them my word that I would support them by what they showed me in my class. I only focused on what they personally showed me here. I also told them that I would stand up for them if needed in the future.
I gave and received respect and I explained that we were a family in the classroom. We were united in learning here and respect was key as were communication, kindness and effort.
What I found was that my students rose to my expectations and exceeded them. I had a few rowdy students whose reputations preceded them that first year of my speech. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but they surprised me, themselves, the other students and their parents and administration by excelling in my class. Their potential had been locked away by their past reputations and when they chose to have a clean slate, their grades, lives and reputations changed dramatically for the better!
True to my word, when one of them got in trouble outside of my classroom, I went to the principal about this particular student. I stood up for him, showing his grades and the fact that he did his homework consistently for me (and I gave homework every night)! He was misbehaving in other classes and not doing his work, but for me, for some reason, he worked! When I told him what I had done, he beamed and thus began a transformation as I told him that if he could do this for me, and for himself, I expected he could do it in his other classes. His response was that the other teachers weren’t me. I suggested he not do it for them, but for himself.
I can happily report that he chose to change his attitude and his efforts and by the following year, his clean slate mentality was greatly improved. He came back to see me years later to tell me how I had changed his life and he was grateful. I hugged him and told him that it wasn’t me, it was he who chose to do it. I simply walked the path with him as he transformed his life and began to live to his potential.
I miss teaching and making a difference in my students’ lives and feeling the difference that they made in mine. We all have that potential and I love it when we choose to live it!
Thanks to the daily prompt for inspiring me today!
Bravo! You sound like my kind of teacher.
Thank you! 🙂 It was a hugely rewarding career which I enjoyed!
I had only a few teachers like you. I still remember them. I’ve known others, from serving on school committees, but they seem too few and far between. We need more, but thank you for the lives you impacted.
Dan, thank you for your kind words. I am glad you had a few teachers whom you remember fondly. That’s important. I don’t think people realize how much of a positive or negative impact teachers make on kids that can stay with them for a lifetime. I’m glad I made a good impact. I really did try my best every day!
That’s all that matters, in any job. I have a couple negative memories that stick with me, too. The rest just blend into the soup.
Ugh – I’m sorry you have some negativity in that soup. Hopefully there is is more positivity in it when you mix it all up! Thanks for sharing Dan.
Teachers have always had a hard job. I wasn’t the best student.
Dan, I can’t imagine that! Were you rambunctious or disinterested? Either way, they needed to accept you and help you along the way.
Disinterested. Some teachers saw something they could work with. Others didn’t see any of us as individuals. 735 in our graduating class. It was easy to ignore the problem children.
Oh gosh Dan. I am sad for you. I hope that those that did see something they could work with, that they did indeed work with you for every child has potential and a gift. Sometimes it takes someone else to see it so that they can open it. So many in your graduating class would make it hard for teachers to give individualized attention. I’m not making excuses for them, but it sounds like a huge workload whereby you couldn’t get to know the kids as individuals. Such a shame. Truly.
I don’t know if you’ve read the post (listed on my sidebar) “Jupiter Effect” – it give a little insight into the situation.
I just read your comment and ran right over to read your post. Rest in Peace Marty and big hugs to you! Administrations sometimes do weird grouping things in schools that don’t really make sense in reality which sounds like what that gym class was. I think the interesting part about the popcorn has significance beyond your story. Have you ever thought about expanding it? It’s really well-written!
Thank you. I have thought of expanding on the theme. There’s a lot of stories like this waiting to be told.
I love the start of the school year. I have used that line too! I worked with middle school students.
It works, right? It empowers them I think and it certainly makes our lives easier! I think it forges a connection between teacher/student because we’re both wanting the student to keep the A! Good for you! Great minds think alike! I hope you have a great school year ahead! 🙂
Have you thought of returning to the career field – calling – of teaching?
It’s not a possibility now with my illness but I hold fond memories of my teaching years. 🙂
I get it. Just curious.
Beautifully written…and done. If only I had a teacher (or two 😀 ), in my younger years like you Misifusa. An encouragement like that does bring a smile and hope within because you realise someone believes in you ❤
Something terribly missing in this day and age 🙂
Oh Mark, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t feel encouraged through school. So many people felt that way growing up. I was lucky that I had the opportunity to try to make a difference. I hope that you now have many someones who believe in you! ♥
It was a journey to believe in myself misifusa. In truth it wasn’t so much the teachers but the simple fact that I was as blind as a bat. Somehow I slipped through the cracks and not tested for my sight. Made schooling quite difficult because I though my sight was just normal, not realising it was making things very difficult for me 😀
But it taught me many things about myself, which is what it all means I suppose 😀
Thank you for sharing the beauty of what teachers can do ❤
Oh Mark! How sad that nobody ever realized that you needed glasses! I always wonder how many kids slip through the cracks because of the system and the fact that we’re always on the go and not given time to really get to know the kids. Education has become somewhat of a race to get testing done and approved etc. There’s not a lot of wiggle time to help kids or get to know them better. I love that you were able to find the positive in your experience and get to know yourself better though that which is what we are supposed to do in this lifetime. We are at life school. xo
It began my journey to release the physical world and be more focused on the spiritual. That was my journey to become a healer and guide. A ‘teacher’ if you will. I suppose there are many types of teachers out there in the world bringing that ‘aha’ moment into those eyes in many different ways 😀
Plus I got my eyes lasered later in life and I can see 20/20 now. I can now ‘see’ the physical as well as the spiritual 😀
Oh Mark! How lovely! I am so glad you can SEE the benefits to your journey, even though it has been difficult. How lovely that you are teaching what you now see and know. I love that! I love learning myself and that ‘aha’ moment is always magical for all involved! ♥
Teachers like you make all the difference!
You are so sweet. Thank you!
I mean it truly, you are very welcome 🙂
I loved that Michelle Pfeiffer movie! I always wondered if teachers like that were out there. Apparently, they are…bet the school system is missing you.
Thanks. I miss the kids and the interactions between the students and watching their eyes widen when they got it! I miss that little touch of magic.
I have so much respect for teachers and pedagogists in general. I can’t possibly see myself in a room full of kids and loving it! But where would I be without teachers?
I loved teaching – everyone has their superpower! What’s yours??? I bet it’s probably something I couldn’t possibly see myself doing either! 🙂 We all teach in different ways in life. I’ve read your amazing posts! You’re a teacher too dear one!
Misifusa, you brought tears to my eyes… so so happy that you are real and helped some people… I can only remember one kind lady who treated me as a gift in the very beginning at junior school, the rest were just there to drill information into me… but as Mark said, it was probably my path… although I did notice my eyes getting weaker as I closed down my enthusiasm of live. Hence the tears and my passion for education to change… but it needs people like you… that unfortunately is few and far between even today. Your gift to your students worked because you accepted them, made them feel important and gave them unconditional love and attention… Thankyou, this is what we all deserve and behind my non-profit business, Me, My Magnificent Self… Awakening the Sovereign Master in each of us and living a life of ease, grace and celebration. Much love to you and remember you are a gift that is loving your own Body/Mind now, during your illness, and love performs miracles once your body has finished with its experience and surrenders to your Divine love. Barbara x
Oh my Barbara, I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for your kindness and I am sorry you only had one teacher who made a difference. I try to salute the divinity in everyone and accept them for who they are and what they bring to my life because you know they are here for a reason to help us as we are there to help them. I love that we’ve connected! I’m truly looking forward to reading more of your blog and books xo
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