Thursday, March 1, 2018

Slice of Life 2018: 2 of 31

For the month of March, I am participating in the Eleventh Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. That means that I am writing every day for the month of March in the good company of the Two Writing Teachers community. 

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.

“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.”
Maybe I need to revisit it!

Happy Slicing!


  1. Great quote. It is sad when words spoken or written with good intention are misinterpreted. I am glad you were able to resolve the misunderstanding.

  2. Melanie, thank you so much for sharing this story. It is so easy to misstep. We have so many interactions in a day and we move so quickly. I appreciate your honestly and vulnerability in this piece. It models the best of teaching - we are all perfectly imperfect. So many lessons for this student - far beyond writing. Also love the quote - already copied it to my desktop. Onward...

  3. I explain
    the situation,
    the way
    my words
    found a way
    into misinterpretation,
    and we both
    wonder at how
    other can yet words
    that which was

    -- Line-lifting for some poetry comments. Pardon my intrusions.

    1. Kevin, you are amazing! I love your found poetry!

  4. I love how reflective you were in this slice. We've all done this. Our words are powerful. This is such a good reminder. Thank you!

  5. Such a powerful post. Thank you for your honesty and your model of sincerity. Must save this quote too!

  6. I'm always sorry to hear when this happens to someone, but it is such a good reminder about the impact of our words. It sounds like your open communication helped the situation. Hopefully all involved are thinking about this as well. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Thank you for your honesty in this post. With all the celebrating of success we do in our social media, we often think that no one makes mistakes--and yet we all do. I will remember to watch my words today, too.

  8. Thanks for such an honest reflection. It is easy to get defensive in these kinds of situations, but always more productive to take responsibility whether we were at fault or not.

  9. Great reminder to think carefully about the words we use and then to understand a child's interpretation of them. Your final line helps me remember that students are fragile and vulnerable- just like us!

  10. I love the quote. And I love how you jumped on the situation and had the conversations necessary to help. And of course I love that you reflected about your practice, your words, and your impact. You are such a great educator Melanie.

  11. I remember that chilling feeling...every teacher's worst moment...when an unhappy parent calls to complain about a student/teacher interaction. Luckily you were interacting with a reasonable person, and you behaved admirably. We all make mistakes.

  12. We all need frequent reminders. I will hold onto Haim Ginott's quote, too. We continue to strive to be "instruments of inspiration'.

  13. UGH! I can so relate! I have 2 follow-up e-mails and a follow-up phone call to make and has put them off all week. It's very anxiety inducing! But these are going to be the happy follow-up calls, at least from my perspective, so I should just get it done!