Teacher Ice Bucket Challenge: Save One Child This Year

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Synopsis

I nominate you for the challenge: save one child's life this year.

vision

a child running.
arms outstretched as wings
she twirls across wide open fields toward
infinite seafoam sky.  

a new beginning.

she breathes freely,
confident that she is supported and understood.  

This is my vision for the new school year for millions of children returning to classrooms: a new beginning.  I wish for one adult in each child’s educational life that looks at him and sees past all of the masks and labels, straight into his heart, his hopes, desires, motivations, and shrouded talents.  All it takes is one teacher, one counselor, or one administrator to apply compassionate, creative thinking and look at the child in a different way.  

Teachers, we have the most optimal opportunity of all to give a child a second chance, a new lease on life.  Think about the students entering your classroom this year.  Is there one that you secretly kind of dread?  The one whose is name is whispered in the hallways amidst words like daydreamer, difficult, spaced out, hopeless, depressed, contrarian, individualistic, annoying, strange . . .?  You know that kid, right?  That’s the one you need to help.  That’s the one who needs you.  

There seem to be lots of such kids these days, manifesting traits that don’t fit into the classroom routine, timetable, and structure.  There are many methods we use to analyze these children to find reasons why they act this way.  We might blame crazy parents, living circumstances, diagnoses, or past experiences and say, “This kid is this way because . . .”  But if we want to be change agents, we must for a moment forget about casting blame and instead start from today.  Forget about the testing and the reports and the myriad of reasons; instead, look within.  Start by defining the child’s unique individuality, his creativity, and giving him a way to express it.  When we begin from this standpoint and stay the course, we cannot fail.  

If you are reading this column, you have probably done this before.  You may have even saved many children through the years.  A teacher friend recently told me of a sixth grader, Daniel, whom the majority of adults in her school found to be out of control.  He didn’t pay attention in class, he acted out, he was the class clown—you know the type.  But last year, his Spanish teacher saved him.  She saw him not as a problem, but as a child with possibility and potential.  She leveraged his energy and dramatic creativity, and cast him as part of the storytelling scenarios around which her class was built.  All of a sudden, Daniel started to shine.  He had no trouble paying attention, and was fully engaged in the class.  His Spanish teacher had developed a connection of trust, and she backed up that trust with an approach to teaching that allowed for multi-dimensional student engagement.  Daniel’s life changed as he was able to apply himself productively.  His teacher saw him in a positive light and gave him opportunities to prove this viewpoint. Therefore, fellow students began to see him no longer as the problem child but as a leader.  

Through my work, I have found that many children who do not conform to the school structure in one way or another are longing to be understood, longing for just one adult in their educational lives to ask them about their personal desires and interests and relate these to their daily existence in school.  They are desperate for someone to point out their distinct and unique potentialities, and demonstrate how these apply to learning, growth, and future possibilities.  This is what Daniel’s Spanish teacher did, and this is what you are going to do for that one child this year.  I nominate you for the challenge.  So go forward, and toss a bucket of compassionate, creative learning over a student’s head.  As you do, watch her expression, because it’s not at all what she’s used to experiencing.  And remember, you can’t get out of this one by writing a check!

Copyright 2014 Kathryn Haydon.  All Rights Reserved. 

Tags: education reform, education standards, educational psychology, kathryn haydon, teaching

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