Sunday, August 16, 2015

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

With the beginning of a new school year, I know the anxiety level of all teachers is elevated; when those "Back to School!" ads pop up in mid-July, the pulse of all of "teacherdom"- elementary to college, begins to race. Faculty rooms across the country will be filled with teacher thoughts like: "Who will my students be?  Am I getting the kids who were the jerks last year? Please let me have some accelerated students in my classroom! I don't want to teach the challenged learners. Do I really have to teach the same kid I flunked last year? On, no!  Another _____ (you fill in the family's last name) I thought last year's kid was the end of their thinning gene pool."

If you are a teacher, you have heard these sentiments, and perhaps you have heard even more demeaning  statements. To be honest, hearing these kinds of words spoken aloud makes me sad and hurts my heart.  The parents are sending the school the best children they have to offer.

I believe that every child, as well as every teacher, deserves a fresh start at the beginning of each school year.  No preconceived notions, no remembering or digging up past indiscretions, no paying homage and attention to the mistakes of the past, and no beating up oneself for what was.  A fresh start is just that; beginning again, and only in Education is one allowed to experience that fresh start every September. For most people, the new year begins in January, but teachers know that the real beginning of the year is in September.

Although it is sometimes difficult, teachers must put aside their preconceived notions about students and families and limitations.  They must turn their thinking around a full 180 degrees.  They must take their presumptions and turn them into "What do I NOT know about this child that makes him special?"  As for problems in families, teachers should delve a little deeper; perhaps the discovery of an undisclosed family problem can be addressed through help from the school, and the family unit will get better and the student will improve. What about how teachers look at limitations of students?  I say that instead of looking at a child's disabilities, you look for his abilities. Kids can do so much more, if only we tell them they can, and that we, as teachers, believe in them.

I am not a Pollyanna.  I was a teacher for 37 years, and almost every student with special needs that came through the district was mainstreamed into my Theater or English classes. I found those students (and their parents) to be both challenging and rewarding. However, everyone enjoyed success, because I believed in their abilities to learn and do new things, so they did too.  Having a positive influence on students is one of life's greatest rewards!

I urge all teachers to lose the negativity at the beginning of the school year, and focus on the positives. The year is new, and promises of success for all are within reach, with positive outlooks, hard work, and affirmative reinforcements. Have a great year!

As always, i welcome your comments or suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC ® 

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