This year I have put into practice helping my students notice others around them. We have learned that there is a world outside ourselves and in order to be a part of that world we must always be looking for opportunities to see where we’re needed. It might be a smile, a word of encouragement, a note, or the gift of time that help others know they matter. My students have learned this year that they matter, but now know it’s time to show others they matter too.
This talk of being intentional started this year with simple discussions at morning meeting and has become part of our lessons by implementing words of the week such as joy, perseverance, compassion, and empathy. We use songs from Flocabulary to teach us the meaning of these words and showcase the vocabulary with hands on lessons, which make these words real.
This year I have seen the impact this class has had by simply being intentional. It is through this ONE story (there are many) that I will always remember to teach my students to be intentional in noticing others.
The Story of Charlie:
In the beginning of this year my students noticed a yellow walker in the hallway. Every time we would go to lunch they had to walk around the walker. My students were curious about this walker and wanted to know everything about it. Then one day they saw the child behind it. At our school we have a special needs Pre-K program. The child walking behind the walker was a 3-year-old boy who I will call Charlie for privacy purposes.
My students saw Charlie outside on our Wonder Walk and asked all about him. In the past I would have quickly answered them, but my goal this year has been to be intentional in noticing others, so I made a decision to do just that. I told those students to come with me and we asked his teacher and Charlie about his walker. The teacher beautifully explained why Charlie was in a walker and what strengths he had to use it. Charlie was not able to talk to us, but he was able do use sign language to say hello.
This conversation stirred something in my students. From that moment on they always greeted Charlie in the hallways, outside, and when they would see him at early car riders. The students would spend time to say hello, ask Charlie questions, or pat him on the back. Charlie usually gave them a hello in sign language, but he always gave them his most beautiful smile.
I saw Charlie’s mother early in the fall at a Chick-Fil-A. I walked over to her and told her how proud I was of her son. I explained that he made our kindergarten classroom filled with joy. She asked me if I was the teacher of the sweet class who always cheered for Charlie at early car riders. I told her I was and she smiled as she said, “We love that class.”
One day in early winter Charlie walked by our classroom...WALKED.
All of us just stopped working and broke out in cheers. Some of my students ran to the door cheering because we had never seen Charlie walk. The teacher told us he just started walking. We then headed to lunch when all of a sudden we heard loud crying behind us. It was Charlie being carried over his teacher’s shoulder. They were both headed to the clinic because he had fallen and hit his head. My class was heartbroken. I quickly had them huddle together in the hallway and take a knee. We first put our hands over a heart. This is a practice we do whenever someone we know is hurting. I then explained to my students that the word perseverance came with challenging practice. Charlie was walking, but it would be awhile until he would be strong enough to do it alone, without the fall. It was through his falls and getting back up that he would become a great walker. Right then and there we discussed how we had to work through our challenges to become successful. What a discussion to be held in kindergarten…and in the hallway, but it needed to be talked about right then and there.
Right after the hallway talk my class wanted to make Charlie cards. They all wanted him to have words of encouragement to help him work through this challenging time. After lunch we quickly headed back to class to make him cards, but we decided to create a book of encouragement. After the book was finished we put the book in front of Charlie’s door hoping it would give him extra strength through a class cheering him on.
Later we would see him walking, getting stronger and stronger. The students noticed no longer he fell or needed as much assistance. This made the students excited to know they were witnessing a child’s perseverance and will to never give up. They had become a part of Charlie’s life. He mattered to them and they mattered to him.
Later that month Charlie’s mother was outside at car riders with Charlie’s grandmother. As soon as my class saw Charlie they talked to him and asked him how he was doing. The mother told us the class book had made their family smile because they knew he had champions at school. With tears in her eyes she explained they wanted to frame the book because of the encouragement it gave them.
The next week Charlie had a birthday. At lunch she found our class and presented us with cupcakes. Charlie and his family wanted to include us in his celebration. She explained to me at the beginning of this year she had purchased a wheelchair and a walker. They did not know that he would make such great progress and in such short time. They did not know he would walk. They have been filled with gratitude to see him walking. She explained she was thankful to know while he was at school there was a class who cheered for him. A class who took the time to notice his efforts.
As we ate our cupcakes I cannot explain the feeling I had in that moment. I am sure you can imagine.
The feeling of humility.
The feeling of gratitude.
The feeling of love for Charlie and my students.
The knowledge that we played a part in something bigger than ourselves.
When we got back to the classroom we had a discussion about how amazing our students are as a class and as people. How they had given encouragement to others. Their faces showed me they didn’t understand why I was praising them. I realized to them it was no big deal to notice someone else or to love another outside our class. To them they were just being normal kids.
This made me realize I still have a long way to go to become just like them.
This story of Charlie all started with the goal to be intentional in looking outside our classroom.
What if we had not made that choice? What if the day my students asked questions I just quickly answered them and moved on with the lesson? What if we just focused on us and what we were doing in OUR classroom? Would the story change for Charlie? Maybe not, but maybe just maybe we had a small piece in playing a positive part in Charlie’s life.
As teachers it is not just our job to be a class teacher, it is also our job to be a school teacher. A teacher who is for all students in their school. A teacher who takes the time to notice others. In doing this we can make an impact on our students who then can make an impact on the world.
Let’s be more intentional this year on looking outside of ourselves. Let’s take the time to notice what could perhaps easily go unnoticed.
The next time I am in a rush I will remember this quote by author, Lysa Terkeurst:
“We have to slow the rhythm of rush in our lives so the best of who we are can emerge.”-author of, The Best Yes
It is in this noticing that we truly become the best version of ourselves and push our students to be their personal best.
It all begins with being intentional.
Thank you to the following people who have inspired me to write. They have empowered me to use my voice:
Mike Stanton @micronmike, Teresa Gross @teresagross625, Oskar Cymerman @focus2achieve, Greg Smedley @kindersmorgie, Jon Harper @jonharper70bd, Melissa Chouinard @chouinardjahant, Blair Smith @mrsmiths56class, Sean Farnum @magicpantsjones, Dave Burgess @burgessdave, Sean Thom @seanathom, and Chris Quinn @chrisquinn64, Marilyn McAlister @runnergirl13_1