Wednesday, October 12, 2011

With Thanks

For many of us, the Thanksgiving weekend provides a welcome pause from the demands of back to school start up and the opportunity to check in and more fully attend to those for whom we are most appreciative. Like most families, busy schedules are a constant challenge as we manage the daily juggle of being working parents.

Among our blessings is the support and care provided by teachers, coaches, caregivers, grandparents, extended family, neighbors, and friends that contribute to the safety, well-being, and growth of our children. If, as the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”; then we are indeed fortunate to live in communities that live by this ethos.

Thursday, October 5th was World Teacher Day, a time to recognize the commitment and important contributions that teachers make in an increasingly complex and changing world. Teachers matter. Almost anyone who has achieved any degree of success or attained any position of leadership can point to several significant teachers, mentors, and coaches who have made them better persons along the way.

I know that I have been very fortunate to have had many excellent teachers (secondary and elementary) in my time as a student in Delta. There are dozens who made important impressions on me as a learner. But no one had a more significant impact on me than Mrs. Little.

I was a member of Mrs. Little’s first class, a grade 3/4 split at Hawthorne Elementary. She was fun, energetic, positive, and very patient! I was also fun and energetic but lacked the ability to self regulate and conform to the expectations of the day. Mrs. Little could have easily written me off for my attention seeking and disruptive behavior but even as a new teacher, she fully understood that the most challenging students are the ones that need their teachers the most. She knew the importance of building relationships and she worked hard to win over one of her most challenging students that year.

Mrs. Little allowed me to follow my interests. She accepted or ignored most of my silliness for the sake of seeing the bigger picture, and over time as we established enough trust, she persuaded me to “pick my spots.” She believed in me. And as our relationship grew, I didn’t want to disappoint her. That spring, she managed to encourage me to run track and field. I did so reluctantly and when I had some minor success, no one was prouder and happier than Mrs. Little. Later, I began to develop a passion for sport and competition and I credit Mrs. Little for her encouragement. Through her consistent kindness and interest, I began to see myself differently and my confidence grew.

I was lucky enough to have Mrs. Little again as a teacher in grade 6 but she continued to be my teacher, coach and mentor throughout my time at Hawthorne and when it was time to move on to the secondary school, I left independent, motivated, and confident.

In his book, Ten Things that Matter from Assessment to Grading (2012), Tom Schimmer writes that the most effective thing we can do as teachers is to build confidence in our students.
Confidence is about the big picture – it’s about developing a lifelong mindset that will carry students through their academic careers. Confidence is the ultimate gift we can give a student. Rather than simply having my students learn a subject, I want to build their confidence so that they always expect success and their ability to cope with challenges comes from an optimism embedded within their habitual ways of thinking. (Schimmer)
I’m thankful that Mrs. Little created a classroom with a positive emotional climate and that in it, she provided the care and encouragement that motivated me as a young learner. Her impact left an impression that extended well beyond the time that I spent in her class as a student and set the standard for the kind of teacher that I hoped to become.

Credit to Jason Leslie and Chris Kennedy for sharing their reflections that inspired this post.

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