I am writing this blog to acknowledge, honour and thank all the wonderful teachers out there who are beginning the school year in the Northern Hemisphere, and all my fellow teachers who are working so hard to ensure kids are loved, safe and nurtured in the Southern Hemisphere.
Here’s what I know: a teacher can make all the difference to a child’s life. They can make a massive difference in a positive way, but conversely, they can leave a negative imprint as in the case of my own preschool teacher who stood my five-year-old self on a chair, in front of the whole class, and not only scolded me for being dumb but hit my legs with a ruler because I could not fold my kinder square into the origami shape she was modelling. I have never ever taught or attempted origami again (even though I lived in Japan for three years as a young woman) and it took some years to undo the 'dumb' tag.
That aside, when I was a beginning teacher in a small country town in Queensland, Australia during the early 80s, I had a young boy called John in my class. He was a beautiful boy — kind, helpful, friendly and tried his utmost to be the best he could be. His home life was not so brilliant. He came from a large family with very little means, and whom I suspect, tried their best for their children even though life was very difficult. John often came to school inadequately dressed for the climate and had an aura of neglect. But in our first year classroom of 25 kids, he was loved. He was part of a close-knit team. He was safe. He was valued and he was cared for. I had the privilege to set up a classroom where everyone was valued, everyone felt important and everyone had a voice. I had the opportunity to model kindness and compassion, and to reinforce these core human values to my students.
As teachers we can do this. We have the opportunity to set up a welcoming classroom environment. We can actually shape our students’ futures by how they see and value themselves. This is powerful. Never underestimate how important you are in your students’ lives and how important your classroom is to each and every little person (or big as in the case of teenagers) in it. Your classroom can be a safe haven from their ‘other’ lives where adversity and trauma may be ever present. Your classroom can be a nurturing place where each and every student feels loved and valued.
So, enjoy your year ahead and I’d like to personally thank you for being that one adult in a child’s life who really does care.
Image from Resilience by Jayneen Sanders www.e2publishing.info