Several years ago a parent of a former student told me they overheard their child and a friend talking about their year in fourth grade. They were commenting on the teachers they liked, the teachers they struggled with, and my name came up. The two kids said they loved me. The parent was a former teacher and her curiosity was piqued. She asked, “What is it about Mrs. S that makes you like her?” Their answer? After pausing, one of them said, “She smiles all of the time.” When pressed, they felt that I was always glad to see them.
I remember when that former colleague told me that story. It was after my eighth year of teaching here. I thought I did many things well, knew I had many areas to grow in. I will guarantee one thing; I never gave a second thought to how much I smiled.
I am a genuinely happy person and try and always look for the positive in any situation. Anytime I am around too much negativity or drama, I get stressed. But I had never really thought of how my outlook or demeanor affected my students. Now, I do. I am very conscious of my mood – because when I am stressed I have less patience. And on those days where my fuse is short, I start counting all of the benefits of teaching and how lucky I am to be with these kids.
Our profession is a stressful place to be of late. So many negative headlines, so much policy, so much top-down regulations. I think if I thought about any of that for too long, I’d lose it. So, I focus on what I can do between my four classroom walls. What kind of message I can share through my blog. I choose to be positive. I choose to smile.
Sunday morning I was headed out of my tiny town to drive for thirty minutes to get groceries. This used to be a trip I dreaded, but I’ve found ways to enjoy it - lunch by myself, the chance to read a bit, listening to my favorite music as I drive. Before I get on the interstate, I pass my church.
The later mass was just getting ready to start and my priest was standing outside, enjoying the sunshine. I watched as the deacon said something to him. They both looked up to the skies and smiled. There was something about it, like you were seeing pure joy. It was then that I thought of my former student’s comment and realized – there is more power than we realize in our smiles.
Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers