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