A Mother’s Touch

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With Mother’s Day approaching, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about my mom. As the youngest of six children, you would think time with my mom would have been a blur between the running back-and-forth between games, school, cooking, and cleaning. Not to mention the amount of laundry that wonderful woman has done in her lifetime. My mom is not your typical, busy mother of six. No, my mom has the ability to, in a moment, look at me with only the sweet twinkle in her eye, or with  the impossible softness of her hands, show me an undying love I will only understand when I become a mother. Even when I disobeyed, which was often, or ate that big bowl of strawberries I was told would give me hives, my mother would always be the one lifting me up, patching my wounds, and telling me everything would be all right. Even now on my hardest and most downtrodden days, I crave a simple hug from my mother because somehow she can fix even my biggest mistake or heartbreak with a flick of her hand and sometimes a big bowl of mac and cheese. Now this is not to say my mother is a perfect woman, because she is not. But with the love in her heart she has been able to move mountains for not only me but all her children.

Okay, so I really love my mom. So what? Well, I promise there is a point to all the ooey-gooey talk. As we enter the classroom and look across the room, some sweet little boys and girls will not have moms like mine. No, some parents will be too busy with work or other commitments to wipe away their children’s tears and lovingly tell them that everything will be alright. But then where do they receive the love and commitment of a parent? The answer is simple but daunting–their teachers. We know them; we try to love them even though at times it is a test of patience. Each child that enters our classroom deserves to feel unconditionally loved. By no means am I saying that we take the place of a parent, but we do fill the role of a loved one. Show each student that they are special and important, that amidst all the chaos, they are noticed and are making a difference. They need it. I believe that only through showing the unconditional love of a parent will the students reach their full potential, academically and otherwise. This story really touched my heart, and although I know there maybe some grammatical issues in his writing, I believe this story needs to be heard.

The Teacher and Little Teddy Stoddard

“As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.

It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners… he is a joy to be around..”

His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”

His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.”

Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper That he got from a grocery bag Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets..”

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling* her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer…. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.”

By David Emery

 

Mrs. Thompson had the courage to be more than an educator and became a “loved one.” Only then was she able to make a lasting difference. I promise that by showing unconditional love like my mom, those we teach will be changed and lifted up to great and almost unimaginable heights.

Social Competence Part 2: Young Children

Social Incompetence

In the course of my observations of young children behavior, I have noticed a lack of understanding of distributive justice and how to effectively and appropriately solve problems. For example, Hudson was playing an alphabet game at a table with several other children. There were countless copies of each letter for the children to use, but when one of the children reached for a certain letter, Hudson quickly and firmly established that the letter was his. This example shows that Hudson did not understand that objects, such as letters in an alphabet game, can and should be distributed equally between those who are participating in the game. There were clearly several other copies of the same letter. Hudson, had he understood distributive justice, would have been able to share and divide the letters so that each child had equal amounts.

not-sharingFurthermore, Hudson showed a level of inability to solve problems in effective and appropriate ways. At one point, he and another boy were playing with the blocks together. Every time Hudson placed a block on the building they were constructing, the other boy took it off and replaced it with a block of his own. Hudson’s solution to this problem was knocking the other boy’s blocks down – eventually demolishing the entire structure. Obviously the boy was not happy with Hudson’s reaction. Hudson, had he understood the principles of effective problem solving, could have asked the boy nicely if he could help, simply built something of his own, or found a more appropriate and agreeable solution.

Social Competence

I observed impressive levels of social competence in some of the children, particularly in emotional regulation and delaying gratification. I was surprised by Ayden’s ability to control his emotional reaction to a situation he did not like. While the children were all participating in a group activity, Ayden was talking and goofing off with one of his buddies. The teacher asked him several times to stop talking and to settle down. When his behavior persisted, the teacher asked him to move away from his friend. I could tell by the expression on his face that Ayden did not want to move and was unhappy about moving from his friend. But he reluctantly did as he was told. He could have continued to pout and sulk, but instead he quickly put a smile back on his face and jumped back into the activity with enthusiasm. This showed me that, despite his age, Ayden already has a remarkable ability to control his emotions.

Abby also demonstrated social competence in her ability to delay gratification. The final group activity was learning how to make apple pie. When the children understood the process, they excitedly went to their tables to make their own pies. Abby was the first one to her table, and I could tell that she was eager to make her pie. However, she saw the others arriving at the table and decided to wait to have her pie until everyone else had theirs. She even helped the teacher pass out pies to the other children before finally claiming her own. Abby, like many other children would have done, could have thought only of herself and grabbed the first pie she saw. However, she recognized that the others were just as excited as she, and so she waited for her pie until all the other children had been served.

Real Life Application

shutterstock_100149449-300x217Clearly, children cannot and should not be expected to understand and apply the same principles of social etiquette on the same level as adolescents or adults. They are still learning about themselves and others and are developing knowledge of what is appropriate behavior and what is not. For example, parents and/or teachers should celebrate over the ability a child has to work together with others to build something with blocks. They should and rejoice when children refrain from hitting others when they will not share a toy. This shows that a child is learning appropriate social behavior. Adolescents, on the other hand, should be expected to do such things. Social competence for an adolescent might be demonstrated in their ability to reach out to a shy individual and include them in his or her peer group. They can also use past experiences to comfort a friend who is going through a difficult time, or demonstrate other behaviors that require deeper understanding of healthy social characteristics. Children, because they are so young and tender, cannot possibly develop that understanding without time, experience, and instruction from older individuals.

People develop socially over time. As they learn from their own experiences, the experiences of others, and the instruction of parents, teachers, and peers, they will begin to understand the principles behind appropriate social behavior. Characteristics that facilitate socially competent behavior can be found in individuals at numerous stages of life. They can appear in early childhood and, if one is steered along the right trajectory, can continue to develop and increase throughout one’s life.

Reading Chain

The first day of practicum, I walked into my fifth grade classroom and immediately saw a colorful chain that went over halfway around the room. I thought maybe it was a chain of the number of days of school they’ve had, but it was too long for that. I thought perhaps it could be a decoration that was never taken down, but that didn’t seem right either. I couldn’t help my curiosity. I had to ask my mentor teacher what this chain was actually for!

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My mentor teacher explained that it was a reading chain. The three fifth-grade teachers came up with this idea to teach different book genres, as well as encourage students to read. Each genre is a different color. When students finish a book, they fill out a link with the title of their book and their name and add it to the chain. After every ten books a student reads, the student gets to add a silver link to the chain. As the students added links and the chain grew, they were always excited and felt a great sense of accomplishment as they watched their teacher pin the chain to the ceiling.

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The class is hoping to make the chain long enough to wrap around the entire room by the end of the school year. If they do this, they get a party of their choice. My mentor teacher’s class chose a chip party. They are now almost three-fourths of the way around the room with over 200 links on their chain. This is the work of 20 fifth-graders who have now grown to love reading and are on their way to earn their party at the end of the year. I love this idea because it is a such a fun way to learn about the different genres of books while also getting students excited to read!

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Teacher’s Pet

I don’t really remember much about my 2nd grade curriculum. I can’t tell you about the worksheets or the math books that were used, but I can tell you a lot about Mrs. Hayes. She is the person who inspired me to become a teacher. Connie Constance Hayes. She had the brightest eyes and the most contagious laugh. She was always ready with a hug and a kind word. She made learning fun and exciting because she loved not only what she taught, but also who she taught. I am quite sure that I was her favorite kid. But perhaps everyone thought they were Mrs. Hayes’ favorite kid. Jim Henson said, “[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember who you are.”

In the McKay School we spend our days learning how to teach. We learn skills that will ultimately make us better teachers and prepare us for the rigors of teaching. The lessons we learn are clearly valuable, but even more important is our individual growth. We must grow in love; we must learn charity and compassion. We need to possess a depth of understanding and love that can be felt by those whose lives we hope to change. We need to take the heartbreaks we’ve experienced and let them shape us into compassionate and empathetic people. We need to possess a depth of understanding and love that can be felt by those whose lives we hope to change. Taheri Mafi said it this way:  “All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being; not just with my hands, but with my heart.”

As we continue our education, we need to make sure that we are learning, not only with our intellect, but also with our hearts. I will know that I have truly become a teacher when my students all believe that each of them is my favorite kid.