Proof: Slice of Life #3

Proof: Slice of Life #3

Student safety, happiness and joy. Relationships. Acceptance. Calm. These things should matter. We all know unless we are pretending or making excuses that are all about us that these things should matter most of all. No learning happens unless we have accounted for these things. No growth. No wonder. No risk taking. None of it.

None. Nothing. Zero.

Without these things, there is damage. Learners that are frozen. Children who are not in their bodies. There is sadness. There is fear. Disengagement. Acting out. Acting up. Turning in. Turning off.

It’s not good enough.

Bearing witness to it makes us feel a lot of things we don’t want to feel. Guilt. Big guilt. Hopeless. Helpless. Spineless. Mostly just less. Sullied shame.

I will never figure out why making sure we all do the right thing by kids is so ridiculously complicated and full of a thousand hoops. The right thing is not complicated. It is beautifully uncomplicated. We know it when we see it. We feel it. We’re sure.

We need to like our students. They need to know it. We need to create spaces for them to feel inspired and challenged. But first, comfortable and safe.

It’s inexcusable to run a room that is built around control and power and compliance. Where rules matter more than feelings. Where quiet is valued over voice. Where lectures have replaced dialogue. Where nobody laughs.

I can’t bear to watch it.

This. These words. This is me climbing out of the standing by sidelines. Cutting through the “It’s awkward,” the “It’s uncomfortable,” the “What can I do?” chains. Readying myself to do something.

Draw attention to the obvious. Ask the hard questions. Not let just a few more months be good enough.

After all, it’s not me  – everyday –  feeling lost. Feeling failed. Feeling abandoned. I am the adult. I work in the realm of adults. It’s the adult world that has all the rules and measures and guidelines and procedures. If we can’t figure out how to do the right thing using our own rule book, nobody can. If we have made it all impossible to navigate, then wow, we really are ridiculous fools.

Today I watched my students closely. I thought carefully about what settled, calm, secure and happy children look like.

What specifically did I see? How did I know? What is the proof?

So much is in the eyes. Open eyes. Smiley eyes. Bright and curious. Alert. Safe. My students can hold my gaze. With no words much is communicated. Trust. Questions. Eyes that look to me for affirmation and confirmation. Eyes that watch me. Did I see? Did I notice? Do I know that they know? Am I smiling too?

Those conversations without any words tell me the most.

The body language is easy. Limbs draped over furniture. There is leaning in. Leaning on. Tucking toes. Wrapping arms. Stretching out. Seeking proximity. Being comfortable with space.

The proud smiles when I say, “Go ahead, I trust you.”

The remembered confidence when they call my name and then reconsider, “No, it’s okay. I can do it.”

The knowing giggles. The nodded heads. The kindness given. The kindness received.

The sweet offerings, “Now that I know I can do it, I’m going to write you a story.” “I think this is my best writing ever.” “I feel really proud of my work today.” “Hey, I loved that story.”

The greetings and the goodbyes. “Good morning Ms. Gelson.” “See you tomorrow.”

Other students hold my gaze. When they don’t have downcast eyes. When they aren’t staring into space. When they aren’t looking through me. These eyes aren’t smiling. They say one thing clearly, “Help.”

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

13 thoughts on “Proof: Slice of Life #3

  1. This is the perfect kind of slice — thoughtful, reflective and wondering.
    I loved this line: “We need to create spaces for them to feel inspired and challenged.”

  2. Oh Carrie! You are here and your voice is moving and powerful. I totally agree. It’s why I gave up Class Dojo this year. This post has me thinking…

  3. This is so beautifully written, haunting actually. You are inspiring the rest of us to “climb out of the sidelines” and advocate for kids as well. I saw a hashtag yesterday, #whatkidsdeserve and yes, they deserve so much! It’s not enough to just do this in our own classrooms. We are all responsible for our whole school community at large. You’ve squarely put the question to alll, “How will you advocate for all kids?!? Thank you!

  4. Carrie, your students are genuinely fortunate to have a teacher who cares about them so completely! I love your encouragement, “Draw attention to the obvious. Ask the hard questions.” If we sleepwalk through our day we have lost so many opportunities to be the teacher our students truly need us to be. Thanks again for the inspiration!

  5. I love your writing style and honesty. I also love your reflective nature. 😌

  6. When I worked with beginning teachers I thought the one important thing they needed to know was that they must do what they can to ensure that students knew they were liked. The teacher must be super observer and super listener, and all the rest will move along as needed. I wish I’d had your post to share with those young teachers whose early questions often included “how do I keep the room under control?” Thanks Carrie!

  7. Yes, this. All of this. It is exactly this uncomplicated. Of course, what is beautifully simple is not always easy. But this is how classrooms (and families!) work best: relationships and connection at the core with a great deal of kidwatching to help us assess and understand. I love how well you understand the fundamental need for safety.

  8. The focus of our faculty meeting yesterday was this same topic – students can’t learn if their basic needs are not met. But more importantly at that meeting was this question – what are we going god o about? I too, have those students with that look of begging for help.

  9. We know this from the deepest core of our souls, yet why is it, in the midst of our days, we tend to forget? Could it be the overwhelmingly pressures of all we are expected to do as the teacher of our students? It’s hard to remain focused on these goals of safety and love, but everyday we must. You are one who kid watches closely for evidence of safety and love. We forget to notice and walk blindly. Your message says to be aware. Notice. And to look for those who quietly say, “Help”. I love this, Carrie.

  10. My post yesterday was on similar thoughts. I feel so inadequate in the face of all the trauma in my students’ lives. My own child is acting out at school, so full of shame from childhood trauma, and I struggle to help even him. But to ignore it, to pile shame on top of shame–how can people think that’s okay? I got two emails from his school yesterday from two different teachers, and the content was so very different. Not because my kid was different. Because the teachers are. I’ve said it before, but I wish my children could have experienced your classroom.

  11. Oh, how do you do this over and over and over again? Your words are mesmerizing. I often find myself reading your slices not once, but twice or three time as to not miss a sentence, a phrase, or even a word. I agree to all of your thoughts, especially this: “Those conversations without any words tell me the most.” Observing, noticing, watching … so much to see and learn from our students. I want to be in your classroom just to observe you in action. If that can’t happen, I am so blessed to have this … your stories.

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