Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Final Step

The last blog I wrote, “It’s War, Baby!” involved my premeditated decision to handle a child’s abusive behavior with tough actions and a harsh attitude, and then finishing with, hopefully, an uplifting moment. Sometimes I wish I could circumvent the war step and go straight to the uplifting part. When I reflect on my actions as a teacher, that means I ponder if I could have eliminated the tough talk and gone straight for making Eric my Assistant Guardian, and then, most importantly, gotten the same short and long-range results. I am trying to think of some of those moments when I skipped the war step and first responded with wisdom and foresight, and the child, inspired by my very utterances and gentle demeanor, was renewed and uplifted, not only as a student, but as a human being.

I can’t think of many, or rather, I can’t think of any, at least when the child pushed buttons the way Eric did. However, I have tried to emulate the reactions, examples, and guidance of a few teachers who impacted me. Here is one of those stories.

When I was in the third grade, one of the fourth grade teachers in our school let me know in every casual hello or passing by that she thought I was special. That lady even looked at me like I was wonderful, and I knew there was someone in this world that would vouch for my greatness before God and man.

A fourth grade buddy of mine and I started fooling around with matches. We even took the bold step of bringing matches to school! Today, of course, it would be grounds for suspension and possible expulsion. Our matches fixation was forbidden excitement. Then, my slipshod friend got caught with his matches and told his teacher that I was also involved. She sent him to my class to “fetch” me in order to punish the other firebug, whoever he was. On the way to his classroom, my friend told me that his teacher had found out about our matches, that she was furious, and that we were dead boys walking. I was terrified. However, the terror was pleasant compared to my next emotion. My terror turned to shame when I saw that his teacher was the fourth grade teacher that thought I was the cutest kid in the world, and the look on her face ripped my heart out. She was shocked, then her face turned to disappointment, then she almost looked sad, and she said nothing to me. I had disappointed her. I had ruined my perfect reputation, at least in one person’s eye, and she sent me out of her room after saying nothing. Nothing at all. There was no punishment, except for the greatest punishment of all, the loss of my reputation to someone who thought so highly of me.

I ran from her sight for months to avoid seeing her. Then one day there she was and I couldn’t avoid her. Yet she spoke to me like nothing had happened. I was still the wonderful little kid in her eye. She looked at me and spoke to me the same way, but something had changed in me. I knew she knew I wasn’t perfect anymore, but to get her enthusiastic respect and love back, that was the gift she gave me again.

That gift, that uplifting gift of acceptance, of respect, of even admiration, and then forgiving love, is the final, perfect step. That last step is always my goal as a teacher, the ultimate power I have as a teacher.

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