What Words Do You Believe?

I've written before about my third grade teacher. For me, she was the misery all other teachers were measured against. She embodied everything I didn't want in a teacher and everything I pray my own children never have.

Each year as school begins I worry about who my kids will have as their teachers. We've had some all-stars, but we've also had a few that should never have joined the team.

So how do you make sure that no matter who the teacher is, your child gets through the year unscathed? It's a hard question and one I've thought a lot about. Teachers give children messages about who they are, how likable they are, how smart they are. My youngest is going into fifth grade and has had only one full year with a teacher who made him feel smart and liked. That's not a good percentage and it makes the mama bear in me poise for a fight.

And yet, he's comfortable with himself and he's a pretty happy kid. He even likes school. I think I have an idea why.

I think it's about choosing what words to believe. His third grade teacher told him he was smart as a whip. She told him she loved his energy and enthusiasm. She told him she appreciated how friendly he is. His other teachers have said he's unfocused and too social and disruptive. He chose to believe his third grade teacher.

I remember being terrorized by Miss D., but oddly enough, with the exception of a few choice words in the bathroom, I can't remember a single specific thing she said to me. I remember her screaming, I remember getting knuckled on the head and I remember having my hair pulled, but I don't remember the actual words she said.

And yet, I distinctly remember the student teacher's words that year. She was a welcome respite from the noise and abuse that came from Miss D. She was pretty and cool. She said words like "far out" and "super cool" when she liked something.

For art one day, we were painting with water colors. I painted a picture of a tree. In the sky, was a creature shaped like a cloud with a mouth that was blowing the leaves across the sky. In the gust of wind, surrounded by the flying leaves, was the word "whoo." She came around to look at the pictures and stopped at mine. "That is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. You're so clever. Can I take this and show my room-mate? I'll bring it back tomorrow."

I gave her the picture. I loved her.

She thought I was clever and that my art was one of the coolest things she'd ever seen. I still remember those words.

I don't know why my little boy believes the good things. I don't know why I did. But I'm so grateful.

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Mindy said...

I love this post! I still remember in jr. high when I was sitting on the lawn outside the school after lunch with one of my best friends. She looked over at me and said, you are really beautiful. Those words stuck with me. I believed her, because she said the words so sincerely. It came at a time when I was feeling awkward, and very un-beautiful... what a blessing.

And yes... teachers can make such a difference for children. I wish all could be positive and helpful, and make our kids feel as special as they truly are.

E.R. King said...

I'm worried if my son will get good teacher, too. Here's hoping this school year goes well for our kids!
(I'm following you on Google Reader.)

missy said...

So true! I was volunteering at my kids' school last year sitting at a table in the hallway working on a project. The teacher across the hall brought a little boy into her room (I guess some kids in the class had accused him of something) and she proceeded to tear that boy apart in front of all her students. I was horrified. My one regret is that I didn't rush in and advocate for that little boy. I wish I'd told him in front of her that what she did was wrong and that nothing he could have done would justify that type of humiliation. Instead, I visited with the Vice Principal (he handles discipline) and tearfully informed him of the situation. That little boy needed some serious debriefing as did the class who watched. None of my kids will ever have that teacher.

Anonymous said...

i think we all had teachers from you know where (*+##) at some point as we were being educated. it was okay for me, but it wasn't okay for my kids. On hindsight,i wouldn't hesitate to have a child moved from a mean teacher or else just keep them home with me. No child needs to be abused by a teacher who is being paid to be there. I say, if you can't be kind to the children, find another profession!!! LMH

Anonymous said...

(continued) And no child deserves to be abused by a volunteer or the school bullies. Am I passionate about this? Yes, I am! LMH

Rebecca Adams said...

Just goes to show that it's best to say kind things. The kind words will always be remembered, and the person who said the kind words will also always be remembered! -- whether you are a teacher, neighbor, friend, parent, child, aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc. I want to be the person who gets remembered for always saying kind words. (I'm trying!) :)

Maggie said...

This is a good post because I think we have a natural tendency to remember or believe the negative words. You know the thought it takes ten positives to match one negative?

I am going to teach my kids this: that we choose the words we want to hold on to. Thanks!

Edonna said...

As a teacher, I try to remember the words I use. I don't think I've ever directly called a student anything. I do use the word "fool" in reference to poor behavior. "Some fool left their gum on the seat". And occasionally, I refer to behavior as "stupid", like sticking your finger in a socket kind of stuff. I don't allow those words to fly between students. I've even learned Spanish bad names and one Farsi word (that was on accident). Most students remember that Mrs. Flake respected them. This year, I only have about 5 boys I'm really concerned for, behavior-wise. Quotes from associates "the parents are sending us what they have, they're not holding their best-behaved and brightest at home." "If this was your child (having the hard time) how would you want the teacher talking about him/her?" Ahhhh. I love teaching.