Helping Teachers Do No Harm
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to check off an item on my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to go on a back-to-back cruise which meant spending two weeks sailing on the same cruise ship. My sisters, Robin and Renee came up with the idea a few months ago and I eagerly agreed to join in.
I loved watching the big ship maneuver in and out of the ports from our balcony. It was fascinating seeing the busy port towns slow down and return to normal as the ship sailed away to yet another destination.
As we navigated out of the Cancun, Mexico I saw several small boats ferry workers from one island to another and I realized that each boat left their own unique wake – the waves it leaves behind as it sails through the water.
We all leave a wake
This reminded me of how we each leave our own wake or trail of energy when we leave a room, a relationship or a job. This is especially true with teachers who deal with various people throughout the course of the day.
I wondered if they understood the wake they leave behind.
The good news is you can consciously decide the wake you want to leave behind and it’s super easy to do so.
During my last year of teaching, I made a conscious decision to be mindful of my thoughts and feelings so that I could cherish the great ones and minimize the stressful and negative ones. This was extremely difficult every time I thought about the dreaded speech I’d have to give in front the entire school community during our end of the year meeting. Just the thought of standing in front of my colleagues for the very last time brought really big crocodile tears and I knew I’d be unable to control them. That one thought brought intense anxiety because who wants to be remembered as a crybaby? Certainly not me!
I knew my last message had to be meaningful and enlightening as well as humorous so that they would remember the message and not the tears that flooded the stage. I decided to urge my colleagues to Do No Harm and explained how my 8th grade English teacher shamed me in front of the whole class and why I decided to never ever talk in his class again. Anyone who knows me understands how impossible this sounds but I did it. I answered when called on but I never volunteered or uttered a single word that was not asked of me. I urged my colleagues to apologize when they were wrong and to build relationships instead of blame just as Rita Pierson so expertly explained in her famous Ted Talk entitled “Every kid needs a champion.”
Words really do matter
I wanted them to understand that their words and actions mattered and sometimes their wake can leave a negative effect. You see I never forgot what Mr. Mean Teacher said and how ashamed and embarrassed I felt 43 years ago. It hurt now just as it did then and I wanted them to understand the power of their words.
You get to decide how you interact with others. You can just as easily leave a positive wake instead of a negative one. You can encourage and tell the truth instead of belittling and telling a lie. You can build instead of tearing down and love instead of hate.
It’s your choice. You get to decide.
Answer this question
Here’s a really easy question to ask yourself when faced with a difficult situation: How would I talk to my child in this situation? Would I yell and scream disparaging remarks or would I calmly explain how their remarks or actions are inappropriate in this setting? Would I talk to them quietly and privately or shout for all to hear? You get to decide.
Of course, it’s stressful dealing with other peoples children and their parents. But you get to lead by example when you’d love to share a few expletives. I know how difficult it is and each time I refrained from saying what I really felt I did so because I didn’t want to cause the same kind of shame and embarrassment I felt so long ago.
Positive or Negative: You get to decide
You get to determine your wake in every difficult situation and I pray it’s always positive.
PS: I’d love for you to share your story of how you dealt with a difficult student, parent, co-worker or administrator here. Together we can brainstorm ways in which be a lot more positive and Do No Harm.