One of the secrets to staying sane and happy as a classroom teacher is to create systems which both reward positive behavior but also build on the strengths and passions of the students (and the teacher and the parents and even your friends). As battered and blurry teachers, we often stumble into class the next day mumbling a vow of positivity, “Focus on the positive…Focus on the positive…” only to be greeted at the morning line by three kids complaining about three other kids for kicking them, saying something awful, etc.
Outside of teaching, I have been hearing more and more about this practice of writing down one’s gratitudes at the end of the day. My sister has done it pretty much daily for a couple of years now. She councils: be very specific. A friend of a friend did it for a year with a gratitude buddy, sending each other their reflections. Perhaps that’s what is wanted here in the urban classroom: a zen practice that takes you beyond intending to focus on the positive and actually puts into daily minutes and words.
I am grateful for my student who wrote this paragraph for homework: I like to play with my cousin. My cousin is very silly and playful! He is only three! My cousin makes up the games we play. We have fun!
I am grateful for the girl who excitedly told me about it being the birthday today of her English Language Support teacher. She showed me the card she brought and said she had a surprise.
I am grateful for the boy who didn’t pass his 11s quiz today during Multiplication Workshop Round II (now they have only 30 seconds to take the quiz). He came back three times to try again. When he finally passed he crowed, “I never give up!”
I am grateful that when I reminded the class of how to do multi-digit multiplication today, most of them were actually able to follow along and solve the problems we worked on. When I asked kids to share the mistakes they had made in order to help other people see their own mistakes, three kids raised their hands and pointed out their errors.
I am grateful that when I walk out to the line and shake hands with my students and say “Good morning,” they say good morning back like they are truly happy to see me.