Sunday, January 4, 2015

Words

Words.

I’ve been thinking a lot about them of late. They seem to be everywhere you turn. Discussions over what people said, what people did. There is the infamous saying,

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

Which I think we all know is completely false.

I don’t think a day has gone by in my teaching career that I haven’t talked to some child about their words. The impact of what we say is tremendous. I think we must find a way to be more mindful of it. But it isn’t just words.

One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

And that’s true, isn’t it. I see examples of it everywhere. Jim Rome found this out recently when he made an asinine comment about band students on Twitter. This blog points out his enormous mistake well.  (HERE)

I’m not sure who the blogger is, or how old he is, but obviously he still has memories over what people said to him years ago. Does he remember the exact words or just the feeling? Probably a bit of both.

As a parent I am constantly aware of what I am saying and the impact it could have. Yesterday we went to a day of basketball games. Both of my boys’ teams lost. The conversation we had after was, as always, enlightening.

With one I asked him what he felt he had done well and what he needed to work on for next time. He immediately rattled off the mistakes he had made, ego still tender from the game. I said to him, as I have before, that if we only look at our faults we will not see a true picture of who we are. It took awhile, and some help from me, but eventually we came up with a list of everything he had done well.

With the other we talked about the crowd, how intense it can get at times. He commented that he was glad I cheered for everyone and didn’t yell when people messed up, when he messed up. “Mom, I think people forget we’re just kids.”

Yowza. They are always watching us.

Years ago a parent came and saw me after her daughter had been in my class. It was August, her daughter had moved on to the next grade. She wanted to let me know what she had overheard the day before. After seeing who their teacher was for the new year, her daughter and her daughter’s friend were talking about the previous year. Her daughter said, “I’m going to miss Mrs. S., she was so nice.” The friend concurred. The parent said, “What about her was so nice?” Her daughter said, “She smiled every time she saw me, every day. I always knew she was glad I was in her class.”

That comment took my breath away. That should not be a remarkable thing, that a teacher wants you in their class. I hope I make every child feel that way.

My community lost an important member this weekend, a former teacher who began the kindergarten program here in 1966. More importantly, a friend from childhood lost her mother. As I have watched the condolences pour in over Facebook, the comments on status updates, one thing has stood out – how Mrs. Miglin made people feel. Whether through words or gestures, people remember this teacher from when they were five, even if they are in their fifties now. Mrs. Miglin left a legacy behind, a legacy of kindness and caring, and it is one to be proud of.

Angelou is right. People might forget what we’ve said exactly, but they will never forget how we’ve made them feel. That will be our legacy when we are long gone – with my students, with my children, with any lives I touch. This year I will work hard to keep that at the forefront of my mind, it is more important than anything else I can do.




 
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