For 34 years I taught middle school and high school age youth in public and private schools. I LOVED that job. But it was tough to watch adolescents struggle to survive emotionally in the venue of a public school amid this fast paced American culture. I learned that if I was going to ask kids to believe in themselves, to stretch and take risks, to work hard to a high standard, the classroom had to ALWAYS feel safe. Never could a student fear a smirk, or rolling eyes or a put-down from another. I could not ask these students to take risks if they thought there was even the slightest chance that someone might mock them. EVERYONE had to be valued, ALL the time.
Every September with new classes of students, we would spend the first weeks talking about what it would take for each of us to make this work. For those first few weeks, I had to be highly vigilant in monitoring respectful, courageous behavior, reinforcing it, talking about it when we slipped up. Once that was the clear and non-negotiable norm, we could put the achievement bar way up high. The safety we felt translated into high achievement.
Now I am retired. I am a grandmother. I am thinking in new ways. I am also concerned in new ways.
Where do our children and youth find models of integrity and courage to follow? Where do they find the guts to step out of the bystander role when they witness unkindness or injustice? When will our media and our literature shine a light on kids who do this .... and adults who model and teach this?
My desire to see these values reflected in books and our society has led me to write for kids and start this blog for educators, parents and anyone else who might happen upon it. It's risky for me. But I'm trying to believe that no one is rolling their eyes or smirking at my efforts.