My last year as a 5th grade teacher we were warned, in a friendly way ,of course, as these warnings tend to be. “Oh, you will have your hands full…” Oh, THAT group is coming up.” My team and I had seen these kids come up through the years, that is the beauty of elementary school. Yes, we had seen the tantrums, the fighting, the crazy behavior that made many label this group as the worst in (insert however many) years. But we also had seen the kindness, the energy, the fun that these kids projected and knew that while we may have our hands full, the year with them would be a year where we would always strive to look for the good, rather than the bad because although the bad was so easy to spot, it should not define a group of kids. Sure there were days where we could not believe what was going on but what I remember most about that year was how incredible the kids were. How much fun we had. How there were these incredible lows but also days that were some of the best of my teaching career. My team would agree with me on this. Yes we had THAT group but also loved THAT group.
Every year since then I have taken that same pledge; to always look for the good first. To always praise, to always point out how great of a group this group is. To change the group narrative in some small way. To always assume that this will be an incredible year no matter the reputation of a group. I think it is so easy to fall prey to the notion of the worst class ever. I think it is so easy to just want to get through a year as quickly as possible, I know there are days that seem never ending where we question everything we do. Yet when we do, we forget something very important; not every kid is going to have a bad day every day. Not every kid is going to have a bad class every class. Sometimes it may seem like this is the toughest day yet, but that too shall pass and just like we hope for a better day tomorrow, so do the very kids we teach.
When we let the actions of a few define an entire group, we are dismissing the individuals that make up that group. We are dismissing the kids that come to school hoping that today will be a good day. Hoping that this is the year they can finally escape the reputation that seems to follow them. As a parent I shudder at the thought of my own children’s class being labeled as the worst in however many years, because how do you ever change that? How do you stop a child from believing that they are horrible when that is what they hear whispered?
So today, much like every day, I will look for the good. I will praise the kids for all of the amazing things I see and yes, there may be ill decisions and tempers flaring, but those will be handled on an individual basis. I will not let the actions of a few tell the tale of the whole. And I will tell my kids, much like I do almost every day, that I have the best job in the world, that I cannot wait to come back tomorrow even if today was tough. Because it is true. We get to teach and teaching is only for those who can see the good in kids, no matter how much a child cannot see it themselves. We get to teach, which means that we d believe that this is the year a new narrative can be written. That this is not how a year will be.
No children should be told that they are a horrible group of kids. They are kids period. And we owe it to them to see beyond their reputation and re-invent their group identity. That is why we teach, that is why we have the best job in the world.
I am currently working on a new literacy book. While the task is daunting and intimidating, it is incredible to once again get to share the phenomenal words of my students as they push me to be a better teacher. The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge. So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.