When I had my own classroom last year, I had a poster hanging on the wall just like the one below. I really wanted my students to think about the power of their words before they came out of their mouth. At the beginning of the year, we squeezed a tube of toothpaste and then tried to put the toothpaste back into the tube as an illustration that you can never take back words once they have been spoken. We weren't successful 100% of the time, but I heard snippets of conversations from time to time where students would ask or tell each other, "Is that inspiring?" "Was that helpful?" It made me proud to know that some of my students really took that to heart.
This year, since stepping out of the classroom into a leadership position, I've really thought about the words that come out of my own mouth and the power they have. I haven't been perfect, not even close. There have been days where I've said the wrong thing, but I've owned it. There have been days where the words I spoke were taken out of context or misconstrued. Only I know the intent behind those conversations. But, I've really been pondering the way teachers speak. Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to meet Ron Clark and he made a comment that jumped off of the stage and has stuck with me. I know I won't get it exactly right, but he spoke about how teachers are the world's worst at tearing each other apart. He gave several examples that I could really relate to…"Look at her working late. She's doing it for recognition." or "Dressing up for costumes is just a way to get attention. There's not time for that."
I thought back to the many, many days I ate lunch in teachers' lounges, attended professional developments, etc. and heard those very same comments about teachers who are in the trenches in all out warfare for their students. I thought about the teachers who made the comments and the teachers whom the comments were about. It broke my heart and continues to break my heart. Teachers should be bound together by a code, much like the Navy Seals. They never leave a man behind, and never talk bad about one of the team. They do everything they can to make sure everyone comes out of a mission successful.
As teachers, we need to band together and lift each other up every where and in everything that we do. We should be knocking on the doors of teachers in our building and asking if there is any help that is needed and asking for help ourselves.
We have a greater mission than of ourselves. Those little guys, and big ones too, who sit in the desks in our classrooms deserve a "team" of professionals that value each other, learn from each other, encourage each other. That positive energy feeds into our students, who then take it to each other. If teachers model positivity, just think about what our students would do.
Being positive or negative is a choice. One that we must make many times in a single day. But we have the power to choose it ourselves. So, if you choose to be positive, pull up a chair beside me at the lunch table and let's talk about how amazing your students are. If you choose to be the negative nelly - about teachers or students - I'd really prefer that you sit somewhere else.