“Why does everyone always stare at me when you tell me something?” Spiderman said.
His words shocked me to the core. I stammered and scrambled for an answer but the truth was, I didn’t have one. I looked at him and finally said, “Probably because we are doing quiet work right now and everyone is concentrating.” But I knew the truth. It was because I had just yelled across the room at mini Spiderman to be quiet and take his shirt out of his mouth, again. Except this time he called me out on it, and he had every right to. I just called him out in front of his peers. I chose to shout, instead of gently and privately correcting him.
We continued to stare at each other. “You know what Spiderman, I’m sorry. Next time I will come and tell you quietly, how does that sound?”
He mulled it over and nodded. And sure enough, two minutes later as he continued to yap at his peers, I walked over to him and quietly whispered in his ear that this was a quiet reminder to be quiet and get back to work. The mood changed, the other children did not have to pause their work to worry about who was in trouble this time. It was not humiliating. Yes, I had to put more effort in and actually walk across the room (a whooping ten steps) and take a small moment to correct a child and show that child that his teacher can be humble. My students regularly say, “It’s okay Mrs. Carlston! Teacher’s make mistakes too!” Children are forgiving, I just have to remember to forgive myself for my not so perfect teaching moments.
It would have been so easy to shut Spiderman’s question down. But I saw the pure look in his eyes, the embarrassment, the ‘I’m fed up’ look. I knew I had made the mistake, not him.
Teaching is about humbling moments. I learn just as much as my students do. I grow constantly like they do. Spiderman was not only speaking for himself, he was speaking on behalf of other students that I have called out publicly. It is sloppiness on my part, and it affects my sweet little “firsties” more than I care to realize. Until today.
Spiderman may not have realized this when he spoke out today, but I did. His question was a call to repentance for me. Spiderman is not the only student I struggle to teach social skills in a loving way. It may not seem like it makes a difference, but just try it. Try walking over and privately correcting, and very publicly praising. Try it with your hardest students, try it with your talkers, try it with your first offenders. They will trust you more, they will feel more loved, and they will also treat each other better because of your example.
I titled this blog “The Teacher Voice” because I want all teachers to know YOU have a voice. I want teachers around the world to know YOU are not alone in this journey through education. I hope that this blog can be a safe haven for teachers new and well versed. I hope to start a continuous dialogue of stories, teaching inspirations, lesson ideas, etc. Please always feel free to chime in with ideas and comments. Don’t be afraid to speak out and speak up! Our littles need it. Because as much as we need a voice for ourselves, they need our voices just as much.
As the fictional character, Ben Parker, said “With great power comes great responsibility”.
PS. I refer to my kids in code, hence Spiderman.