(Originally posted 11/2/11)
I tried not to, but I have gotten pulled into Oprah’s Life Class on her new network: OWN. It’s become addictive. I haven’t signed on to the website and started my own private journal or tweeted but I find myself looking for the next show so I can learn more. I channel-surfed looking for another channel but landed back on OWN. You see, sometimes the world aligns so that you hear the absolutely perfect message.
It didn’t really start with the Oprah class. It started with the program preceding it: The Rosie Show. Another show that I didn’t really plan to watch. It was a tribute to Phyllis Diller. I was too tired to move and just let it play. Until Phyllis spoke about a comedian who gave her a compliment when she first started her career. She said, ‘For the first time, someone that I believed in, believed in me.” And Rosie repeated “Sometimes that is the turning point, when someone you believe in, believes in you.”
As adults we have two jobs. In order to be a person that can better the lives of children is to a) Be someone a child can believe in. b) Believe in the child.
That woke me up and tuned me in. And kept me so focused that I stayed awake to watch the next Oprah class…which…as God or the universe…..whichever you prefer….would offer…is about
The last hour has been so aha-producing that here I am writing a post before it is even over. It started with a quote by Toni Morrison. A question actually. She asked, “When a child walks into the room, do your eyes light up? Does that child know that you care that he or she exists?”
Now there is this man talking to his abusive parents (who aren’t there but his wife is standing in to be a person who actually hears him). Listen to the things he says :
“You didn’t have children because you wanted children. You had children because you thought they would make you happy. We can’t and now you punish us every day. We are not people to you. We are just one more thing that you hate and you can punish us for it.”
Oh my. How much of the reason that we do our job is because we love how being good at a language makes us feel? How important is it that our students “respect” us by following our rules(write in black pen, don’t hand in pages ripped out from a spiral notebook, don’t be absent on test day)? How bent out of shape do we get when a pep rally or field trip or Honor Society induction get our perfectly constructed schedule out of whack? How frustrated do we get when they don’t do homework, fail tests or don’t come in for extra help because it destroys everything we’ve tried to do? Or did we get into teaching because we truly love our students?
Is teaching about us? Or is it about them?
If I’m being honest.
Then I have to ask myself… Do I communicate my joy in my students and in teaching? Or, am I transferring my own frustration about not being seen and heard as an educator to my classroom?
Am I, while I am in front of my students, forgetting to put people before points and relationships before data?
I think it can be very easy for our students to become the targets of our own anger, about situations that they have no control over, because they are our captive audience. Sometimes there is a fine line between keeping them informed of how the world works and keeping them informed about how the world works us.
“What I need is for you to teach me how to love. How to show love, how to receive love, how to appreciate love. Show me how to treat other people with respect. Show me how to make other people feel precious. I want to be able to do that but I just don’t have any idea how. All I know is what you show me.”
What if, just what if, I am the only adult that will hear this message from a child? What if, just what if, I am the only adult he or she might be willing to listen to about this kind of learning? Am I there? Am I doing what I need to do?
Do I hear my students asking, “Do you believe in me?”
And what answer do my actions give?
Thanks Ms. Diller. Thanks Rosie. Thanks Ms. Morrison. Thanks Oprah.
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