Every now and then, we get those messages--a phone call, a text, a message--that rattle us. This morning, one of the teachers I've been working with handed me a piece of paper--an email from a parent who was upset with an interaction I'd had with her child the day before. I was surprised--usually I have a sense if a child feels bad about anything I've said, and I can fix that feeling before the end of the class. I honestly had no idea that this child had been upset, but as I read the email, I could see how the child had misinterpreted my words, relayed the story to her parents, and created a concerned and angry situation.
I called the parent, and fortunately, she was home. I explained the situation, validated her daughter's interpretation, and apologized for the series of events. My job is to inspire students to love writing and not discourage them.
The parent was lovely and grateful, and I hope the interactions in their home are more positive tonight. It was an important reminder for me, though, of the power of my words and the impact of my responses. Students have so much pride in their writing, and as a writer myself, I should remember and respect how fragile and vulnerable we can feel as others read and react to it.
Haim Ginott's powerful quote was on my desk when I was in the classroom.
Maybe I need to revisit it!
“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”