I just finished reading a great book written by a great author.
May B is a novel written by Caroline Starr Rose. Caroline is a teacher and an author. I opened the book and was prepared to skim over the dedication. Instead I read it more than once and thought of the names of cities I would put in place of those she mentioned and thought of the students associated with each of those cities. Her dedication reads:
For my students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana:
There are a few of you whose needs I didn’t fully understand and others I could have done better by.
This story is for you.
I have posted a lot recently about making mistakes and trying new things even when you are not sure how they will turn out. The flip side of that is that you might make mistakes and things might not turn out ok! How do we balance that out in the real world, when we have real students in our real classrooms? It is our job to understand our students and to do our best by them. But sometimes this doesn’t happen. How do we make sure that it does – or at least attempt to make sure that it does?
I think we do it with grace.
- We are upfront with our parents about what we want to achieve.
- We look for ways to praise all of our students.
- We exercise professionalism in the face of adversity.
- We let go of the idea that we have to know everything.
I think it is ok if you don’t fully understand all the needs of all your kids. What is not ok, is to know that and not do anything about it. I don’t think anyone would object to a teacher making an observation about a perceived need and following that observation up with “And I am going to start looking into how I can best help your child.” We don’t need all the answers up front. We do need to be honest in our dealings with parents and students and we need to be ok with making a few mistakes now and then. The hero of the book, May, knows this:
It is my goal this year to try and exceed the expectations of my parents. I want to make school different – for real. I have a few ideas as to how I want to do this. I also know that I don’t want to forget about my own family in the process. I think this is going to be a year of balance, a year of grace, and a year dedicated to those whose needs I didn’t fully understand and others I could have done better by. This year is for you.