I know you look at your students with disbelief at some of the things you overhear them saying seven feet away from you…because when you’re gone, I hear it, too. It’s as though they think you can’t hear them, don’t understand English, or were never a teenager. Ah, but that is where they are mistaken. You, your colleagues, and I chuckle about it after they leave and sometimes catch them at something later because of a slip-of-the-tongue.
Yet, there is a contradictory factor at play in this scenario. When you are seven feet away from your students, you talk to your colleagues about school being better without the students, you complain about a particular grade, and loudly (and laughingly) state other such negative comments. Do you think they don’t hear you?
I am an observer, I see both sides, I’ve participated in both sides. I remember sitting in that desk hearing teachers (who I liked) speak negatively about students (sometimes jokingly). I now sit on the side of the teacher and hear the negative chatter–sadly, I cannot claim innocence from participating.
I beg of you, each and every person who claims the title of teacher, educator, aide, substitute, guidance counselor, and administrator, please speak words of kindness that uplift, challenge, and encourage our students to do their best and be the best “them” that they can be. I don’t have to tell you that many of them only hear negative comments out of school, so let’s be a place of safety where they can learn and grow. How many struggle with their self-image, confidence, eating disorders, abuse, drugs, alcohol, and so much more? What if they want help? Are you approachable? Do they look at you and know you’ll listen without flying off the handle, love them, and offer them assistance with grace and compassion?
Our children are not problems. They are precious lives that need guidance, discipline, and the space to grow with help nearby. From preschool to the seniors about to walk across the stage, they all need to know they are loved, cared for, and approved of. Those are all things that we can give. Can you step up to that challenge?
An imperfect substitute who has a deep love for her students