I have always loved the book series If You Give a Mouse a Cookie written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond. Once my son came along, it warmed my heart to see him fall in love with this book series too. His personal favorite is If You Give a Moose a Muffin. Reflecting on the magic of these books, helped me realize the whole journey begins with If. What a magical word. Anything is possible with If.
Students walk through our doors everyday ready for If. What if this is the day I succeed, create a masterpiece, go on a real life adventure, or learn something wonderful? What could our young people accomplish if we, as educators, gave them...RESPECT, SUPPORT, HONESTY, FREEDOM, and SAFETY . What Ifs could they dream and accomplish?
I always want my students to know I value them, and they have great worth in my book. Above all, they matter to me. Respect is an amazing trait to model for young people. If you respect them consistently, they reciprocate, and they pass that gift along to their friends and family.
Students arrive at our school every morning. Some are ready for a new day, and some are not. Our students have diverse backgrounds, and no one student's circumstances are the same as another. What I can give is my unwavering support. I am never too busy that I cannot stop and help a student. Support can come in many forms. As a classroom teacher I sent postcards to students' parents. I would describe something great their child accomplished in class, a good deed the student performed, or how much I enjoyed teaching that young person. I never really thought twice about it. I just sent them out and forgot about them. Years later, a student came up to me and thanked me. The student said his family still had that postcard hanging on the wall of their house. Wow! Now that student is all grown up and works in my school district. It is his turn to pay it forward.
One of the best gifts educators can give and receive is the opportunity to get connected with students. Our young people are amazingly talented, humorous, creative, and gifted with no preconceived notions about what can be accomplished in life. Students want educators to be 'real' with them. They want our honesty. Students deal with tough issues in this day and time. I hope all my students know they can come to me when they are in need. I cannot always help them myself, but I can always get them help. School counselors are an amazing resource, and they are trained to deal with tough issues. When students know you truly care, they will share their accomplishments, disappointments, goals, and dreams.
When possible, I always allow students to make their own choices about learning. Who does not like freedom? Students will take ownership and invest in the learning process when they feel empowered. Student choice also creates a more authentic learning environment. Students learn in many ways, and I admire those who respect that fact. Not everyone learns like me, and I never want to force my learning style on others.
As I focus on giving young people respect, support, honesty and freedom, I remind myself that student safety is paramount. If I do not provide a safe and secure environment, then no learning takes place. Safety is a basic necessity and must be established first. Once students know they are secure, respected, and supported, our young people can begin to dream. As I start a new week, I am focusing on a small, magical word...If
If you give a student RESPECT, SUPPORT, HONESTY, FREEDOM, AND SAFETY, they will rise, and rise, and rise.....How far? As far as he or she chooses.