Each day, there are certain tasks I am responsible for completing (taking attendance, assigning homework, providing instruction). Each day, there are certain tasks my students are responsible for completing (lining up when the bell rings, pushing in their chairs, turning in assignments). Each day, there are things I believe I should do to enhance my students’ learning and their school experience. Each day, there are things I believe my students should do to enhance their own learning and school experience. Here are the list of verbs I believe we should practice on a daily basis.
A Accept. Accept who I am - a teacher who can never remember how to spell “vacuum” and who has never learned to whistle. Accept my students as they are. I can hope to make a change, to improve their behavior, but ultimately I can’t force them to change. They are who they are. And I must accept that I’m not always in control. There will be good days and bad days, announcements over the intercom, and the raucous of the lawnmower outside.
B Breathe. I know, it seems so obvious, but maybe that’s why we forget to do it. Tense situations, scary situations, challenging situations - we react. We tense up and we hold our breaths. Without meaning to, we’ve made the situation more difficult because we are depriving our bodies of an essential element - air. Without it, we really can’t properly deal with anything. Slow down. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
C Create. There is a lot during the school day that doesn’t really invite a whole lot of creativity (tests and standing in line, for example). Yet, every chance I get, I try to provide my students with the opportunity to create. Sometimes that means giving them an open-ended assignment and letting them run with it, see what they come up with when the guidelines are looser and they are given more freedom and flexibility. Many times, I am impressed by their thinking and originality.
D Dare. Each day, my students and I need to dare to push ourselves - to try something new, to do something we didn’t think we could. Many of my students don’t succeed to the levels I know they could simply because they don’t try; they don’t believe they’re capable. We won’t know until we try.
E Enjoy. Certain tasks and situations (I’m thinking after-school meetings) are less fun and less desirable than others (I’m thinking the party on the last day of school). But as much as possible, I must enjoy what I’m doing. Because when I’m enjoying myself, it comes through to my students and they begin enjoying themselves as well. They participate, they cooperate, they are engaged.
F Feel. I know I am certainly guilty of sometimes going through the motions, and not truly experiencing the moment. My students and I need to feel. Feel the pride that comes with solving fifteen fraction questions correctly. Feel the sense of accomplishment that results in running laps without having to stop and walk. Feeling empathy for our friend when she has lost her homework.
G Give - praise; credit; a second chance; an extra minute; a break; some space; a hand.
H Hope. Each day, I hope for a “good day.” A day when all my students are safe and healthy. A day when lessons are engaging, students are participating and cooperating, and we all feel productive. It doesn’t always happen. But then there’s tomorrow, and I can hope it will be better for each day is a fresh start.
I Ignore. For teachers, it’s a matter of “picking your battles.” Which means that certain activities, certain behaviors will be ignored. I can’t respond and react to all off-task behaviors. Some must simply be ignored.
J Jot down notes and ideas. My students are expected to take notes during our daily math lessons. They are expected to jot down review questions, vocabulary definitions, and their nightly homework assignment.
K Keep a positive attitude. I tell my students that their effort is just as important as their outcome. We all need to maintain a positive outlook, a belief that things will work out, that calculating the area of a triangle is not an impossible task.
L Listen attentively. Make eye contact with the speaker. Ask questions for more information and for clarification. Make connections and offer valuable comments to further the conversation.
M Model desired behaviors. I can’t make my students be courteous or polite. But, I can “do unto others as we’ll have done onto ourselves.” So I model what it looks like to be respectful (not laughing at others’ mistakes) and what it looks like to be concerned about our environment (recycling water bottles).
N Nurture. Each summer, I return to school early to open the closets, unpack my materials, and create a safe, welcoming, nurturing room environment. I sincerely hope that each day my students feel they have entered a place where they are taken care of, where someone is looking out for them, and where they can thrive and be the best version of themselves.
O Observe others. For some reason, children will mimic bad behavior. I wish my students would observe all their classmates who are focused, who are following the rules, and copy that behavior. My students can learn so much from each other.
P Produce something to be proud of. I tell my students that everything that has their name on it, is something they should be taking pride in. All completed work is a reflection of the student who completed it. Make it something to be proud of.
Q Question. Each year, I am a bit surprised by the candidness of my students. They are not shy about voicing their opinions and asking, “Why?” “Why do you assign homework each night?” “Why do we have to learn all 50 states and capitals when we live in California?” Of course, there are respectful ways to ask these questions, but I am always somewhat heartened to hear my students respectfully questioning; that is, after all, what responsible citizens are supposed to be doing in a democratic society.
R Read. I sincerely believe that every human being needs to read each day. And when I say read, I mean read in any format (a comic strip or graphic novel, a chapter book or a Dr. Seuss early reader, a fan website or a sports magazine). Additionally, different skills are involved when one reads silently, one reads orally, and one is read to. Each is valuable.
S Study. We all need to study daily. I’m not talking about long study-fests; I tell my students that a solid five minutes a day of studying multiplication facts is valuable. I remind my students that I was an elementary school student once too. I wasn’t born knowing all this information. I didn’t understand equivalent fractions for a while. I needed to study, to practice, until I learned it.
T Trust. Our instincts. Ourselves. Each other.
When guessing on a multiple choice test, a test taker’s first guess is usually the right one.
U Understand. Hopefully, my students understand the concepts and skills I have taught them each day. Hopefully, I teach with an understanding that my students learn differently. Hopefully, my students understand that I’m human too - I have stomach aches and head aches just like they do; I also have days where I want to go home, and I want my mommy. And hopefully, I understand that my students are still children, and are learning, each day to become the best version of themselves.
V Vanquish. Many of my students come to school with a fear of failing so they don’t try. I therefore strive to provide my students with a safe place for them to venture a guess, to make a prediction or an inference that may or may not be correct. I want my students to vanquish these fears, to strive without worrying about failing, to make the effort.
W Wonder. I hope my students never stop asking “Why,” or “How?” Our civilization is dependent on inquisitive minds to keep wondering, to keep searching for explanations.
X Exercise. The brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised just as we exercise our biceps or quadriceps. Each day, I expect my students to work, to think, to analyze, to write, and to infer. To strengthen their brains, they need to exercise them.
Y Yell. Not yell because you’re angry, yell because you’re excited and enthusiastic. At our weekly school assemblies, my class is known as the “loud class.” when one of our friends is recognized for performing a random act of kindness or earning a student of the week distinction, we yell. We clap, we cheer, we yell our support. Applause doesn’t always have to be demonstrated in quiet, calm ways.
Z Zap negative attitudes, rudeness, and defeatist thinking. I tell my students that their job is to be a student. They are to do it to the best of their ability. And bad attitudes that might hamper their progress need to be zapped and forgotten. They are here to succeed.