Having taught for many years I have lots of great memories of my time with eight year old third graders. When I recall my time with them I smile a whole lot more than I frown. I think that is because I was the mom of the four Hastings kids at the same time that I was " Mrs. Hastings" to other children in the classroom. Simply put, there wasn't a whole lot that my students were going to throw at me that my own kids hadn't hurled at me at home. I have always said that moms make the best teachers because they have just a bit more compassion, a little more understanding and should have a ton more humor in how they view and handle different situations that pop up at school.

Sadly, I have also witnessed teachers in my past who bore a strong resemblance to the peachy teacher above. You know the type - where the rules and regs trump all. Where stern looks and strict adherence to all rules is paramount. Don't get me wrong...I am all for obedience to rules but if you want to capture your student's hearts, if you want to have them in the palm of your hand , let them see you as a funny, caring, loving, human being above all else. If you can do this, the atmosphere will then be ripe for learning in a way that you cannot even imagine.

Often times, if a student was talking AGAIN while I was teaching up at the board, I would say " Billy, if I catch you talking again while I am trying to teach up here, do you know what is going to happen to you ?"  I would have a very serious expression on my face when I asked this question. Billy would have a hint of apprehension on his face as he shook his head back and forth in a " NO" direction. I would then walk slowly to his desk. lean down very close to his face and I would say " I am going to pick you up, take you over to over to those windows over there, am going to take your shoes and socks off, turn you upside down , and hang you out of the window by your little toes....that's what I am going to do to you!"  Do you know what happened next ? Nervous little giggles would start all over the class room and slowly Billy would smile and start giggling also. Then I would look at him once again and say softly " You know that I am not actually going to do that to you but you know what? You are a sharp , smart little guy and you know better than to be talking while I am trying to teach so lets see if you can not sell yourself short by talking while I am. Let's see if you can be the best that you can be."  Then I would say to the rest of the kids " That goes for the rest of you also." 

Whenever I would surprise them with humor and a sense of fun like that , you could hear a pin drop in that class room for the next twenty minutes. Why is that ? Because they saw that I was a human being who loved them enough to handle a situation with a sense of fun now and then. Is this to say that I handled every single disobedience in a creative humorous way? No..and I am not pretending to say that I did. I did  make it a point however to let them see the loving , fun, compassionate side of me on a regular basis. It made all the difference.

It is just so IMPERATIVE that kiddos in a class room see you as not just the teacher but as someone who is real, who is caring, who understands that they aren't going to get it right all of the time. If I had to correct a student in the morning, I would make it a point to walk by that student's desk in the afternoon and just momentarily reach out and tousle their hair as I walked by. As I did that, the student would look up at me and I would wink at them as I just continued to walk on by. No words were said but what did I accomplish by doing that ? The crystal clear message that I was able to communicate was " Hey...I know that you messed up earlier on this morning and I had to get on to you about it, but I still love you and you're still okay in my book." Two small gestures on my part....a simple touch and a wink ....but oh my, the results were huge. Within two weeks of school starting , we were all enjoying a fairly smooth class humming along, learning and having fun with a sweet positive atmosphere in the classroom. Make no mistake about it....so goes the teacher, so goes the class, meaning that that teacher always sets the tone for their classroom.

Lest anyone reading this thinks that I am just wanting to toot my own horn here, please let me say that is not the case. There were times that I blew it also. There were times that my frustration level would cause me to be overly stern or exasperated. I can honestly say though that those times were few and far between because the kids wanted desperately to please me and the only reason that they did is because I made it a point to CAPTURE THEIR HEARTS those first few weeks of school.

Here are some other practical suggestions of letting those little eyes see you in a fun and heart capturing light -

- spontaneously break out in little songs here and there even if you have a terrible voice. I used to sing goofy made up little lyrics on the spot to diffuse tension between students who were squabbling about something ...or I would sing a theme from a commercial tune - it would make them laugh hysterically.

- Have a " Wacky Wednesday" twice a month where they can wear mismatched shoes or mismatched socks or or a wacky hat etc on those days and make sure that you look the wackiest as the teacher.

- Spontaneously start talking in a crazy country accent as you are up front teaching...then go back to your regular accent....then go back to the country accent .....do this every now and then and those little eyes will light up and they will have HUGE smiles on those faces.

 - Walk with a funny gait around your class room one day. They will know that you are just being silly and having fun with them and they will love it.

 - Whatever is current and popular with their age group in the world at that time, talk about it , or sing about it or mention it in some way. For example, if I was in the class room with little kids today, I would definitely break out a rendition now and then of " LET IT GO" from Frozen. That would just be a must.

I could go on and on with countless examples of how we as teachers can make learning and living in the class room a fun and rich experience. It really doesn't take much to keep your students feeling excited and happy to be there. The worst type of teacher is one that thinks that their main job is simply to impart information to their students, to simply transfer knowledge from their brain to the brains under their charge. I cannot think of anything more mundane, more boring or more problematic. Relating to your students in such a stilted manner is basically just a perfect recipe for resentful and rebellious students who will love nothing more than to push your buttons.

I realize that different age groups require different types of humor and creativity of on the part of the teacher. Obviously what my third graders thought was hysterically funny is not what is going to get juniors in high school smiling or enjoying school. Those secondary teachers in junior high and high school went into that field however because they must enjoy that age group so they should be able and equipped to grab their students hearts at that level as well. I hope that they do.

I guess this blog was born out of a conversation that I recently overheard of a couple kids in a grocery store who were in line ahead of me with their mom. They looked to be bright, well behaved, well cared for kiddos who were lamenting the start of school soon. Both were complaining of how boring such and such a teacher was and how they both hoped that they did not end up in that particular teacher's class room. It made me a bit sad and provoked this blog entry. Teaching doesn't have to be a hard, unenjoyable experience. It really doesn't. All it takes is a sense of fun and creativity and loving your students.

The school year is just starting ....I hope this might help to get teachers thinking maybe in a different way.

 If it does with just one teacher, then this blog effort will have been worth it !

 Keep teaching, keep learning, keep smiling <3