When you arrive at your work and walk down the empty hallways what do you see? Are you wide-awake, noticing your surroundings? Do you see all the positive memories that line the walls? Do you feel a charge of excitement, as if the hallways are already alive with children?
Do you see student faces on bulletin boards and have some pre-conceived notions? And which students are you noticing? Do they make you smile or do they make you look away? Do you feel a part of your school identity or trapped amongst the school walls?
Have you ever considered why you have these thoughts? Furthermore, have you ever considered what these thoughts might say about you as an educator?
Your lived experiences shape your present. These moments shape the moment in-between and your future. If you are not careful these thoughts can be detrimental. They can paralyze you and make you feel trapped. Each moment with each person in your school has built you to be in the moment you are currently in when walking down the hallway. However, you can’t really be trapped if you have never experimented with seeing things differently.
Now reread the last paragraph from the eyes of a child in your school. Think of a student who appears trapped. Have you ever altered your lens towards him/her?
Each moment for each child should be free where amazing possibilities can ensue. It should be a space free of assumed negative attributes, because it is only in this space that he or she can build and repair self-esteem and worth. As educators, we need to ask ourselves “Who are you here for?” We need to examine the lenses we see our surroundings with and adjust the lens that only attributes negative connotations. Those students whose pictures may have made you look away, have qualities you’ve yet to discover.
We are so fast to change the magnification of a microscope to better understand what is happening at a cellular level, yet we seem so fixed on keeping the lens that only superficially sees our students. We too often are not wide-awake, and we see only what is obvious. This along with children showing what they think we want to see, makes it where we don’t really get to see all of what our students have to offer. We are only seeing the visible top of an iceberg, as Chris Wejr and Karen Copeland referred to in their Start With Strengths event. Hidden are talents and characteristics that need to be brought to the surface. Under the water is where the true self resides. It is where our self-worth hides, protected from shame, vulnerability and the unknown. Although many students are privileged enough to magnificently show off their iceberg, too many of our students for the most part are truly never seen. With every negative event their self-worth keeps going farther and farther under the surface. More protected and farther away from ever surfacing.
Tony Humphreys in his book, Self-Esteem: The Key to Your Child’s Future claims that teachers, after parents, are the most influential tribe members in a child’s life. That is why we as educators need to suspend time to allow a space where every child can flourish. A space where past and future don’t exist. A space free of your judgement and space free for the child to explore his/her own strength and better his/her self-esteem. We need to take a close look at our own self. We need to ask ourselves, have we altered our lenses accordingly? We spend hours differentiating our instruction but rarely differentiate our lenses on how we see each child? Our lens is often a black and white lens with a small area of grey, or in other woods, very vaguely, a good kid, bad kid or meh. We need to alter our lenses to see the good in all kids.
Going back to a question from Chris and Karen’s event, “who are you here for?” If your answer is “students” then read the following paragraph for every child in your class. And then change the lens.
When __________ walks down the school hallways what does he/she see? Is he/she wide-awake, noticing the surroundings? Does he/she see all the positive past moments that line the walls? Does __________ see teacher and peer faces on bulletin boards and have some pre-conceived notions? And which people is he/she noticing? Do they make him/her smile or do they make him/her look away? Does he/she feel a part of your school identity or trapped amongst the school walls?