The above meme is so cheesy and means nothing by itself other than a “Wow, be an inspirational person” sound byte. Living it is so much harder. Which means, if you actually do, you’re an actual inspirational person!
Bottom line: These quotes make cute tee shirts for the Etsy shopper.
(Not bad… only $9.90)
But… no disrespect to this virtual shop owner, but $9.90 can also be spent going to the Dollar Tree and buying cheap made-in-China stickers and handing them out to random shoppers at the grocery store. (Especially the cranky Russian lady with the whisker pushing the metal pull basket who gave you the stink eye for reaching above her for the gluten-free Joe Joe’s.)
Why do that? I’ll tell you. Because most people don’t get out of their comfort zone to make eye contact with someone, ask how they are doing, and give them something to break them out of their zombie like “It’s all about me” trance.
Me? I haven’t yet given out stickers. But I dole out little treats and unearned grace with my kids in middle school. Sure, I’m just a long term sub. And do I have a Masters in Art? No. But I do have a Doctorate in Understanding People. (Plus I graduated Magna Cum Loud Mouth so can relate to my fellow talkers.)
You, Rowdy Kid. I GET YOU
I know that bad behavior often means something gross is going on at home. It means that if kids are grabbing tape that doesn’t belong to them or tossing bananas or water bottles on their desks (OMG THE WATER BOTTLE FLIPS KILL ME) they are likely annoying the crap out of teachers in another class. I can either get insanely annoyed (it’s happened) or I can pull them aside and have a one on one conversation. I can once again review my expectations. And then I can speak light and love into them.
Me: “Andy, I can tell you’re not a kid who likes to sit still.”
Long quiet stare as he looks up at the 6 foot woman in pig tails with the “I Love Pitbulls” tee shirt towering over him.
Me: “Tell you what. I will let you walk around whenever you want.”
More silence, then: “For real?”
Me: “Yes. ‘Why?’ you might ask.”
Me: “Go ahead. Ask why?”
Kid: “Uhhhh… why?”
Me: “Because I’m a long term SUB. It means, WHO CARES! My job is not to feed the school system an all-size-fit-in-the box kid. I can be like Grandma and fudge a bit. I can give you a little wiggle room to be the kid YOU need to be.
Unless LAUSD is reading in which case I am the epitome of excellence in all teaching standards. Do you understand?”
Kid: “I don’t have a grandma.”
Me: Deep breath. “I simply mean I care more about you learning to communicate and being heard than being perfect. Do you understand?”
Me: “Good. Then sit at your regular table. Move around if you need to. But do not touch/talk/nudge/move/pinch or annoy anyone. Like the zoo signs you see on field trips! Only replace that last word with ‘STUDENT’. ”
Kid: “I never get to go on field trips.”
“What a shock.” That must feel bad.
Kid: Shrugs. Head down. “It’s no biggie.”
I spot a tear but don’t say anything.
Me: “So today you get to start over! Today is one more better day toward a field trip. But if you can’t keep it together, I am moving you to the front near me. Deal?”
Then we shake hands.
Then he goes to his seat.
Then he inevitably gets up and annoys, bugs, moves, pinches or throws water a some kid.
Then I move him next to my desk.
Then he complains and threatens to tell his school counselor who I’m sure has never heard of this behavior from him for the past two years of middle school not to mention the stack of IEPs from his grade school years taking up more space in the files than Trump’s ridiculous tweets about the wall.
And we start over the next day.
Because while I can’t change someone’s trauma induced behavior, I don’t have to replay mine. Which means showing kindness every single day. Every single time.
Plus, it’s Friday. So everyone is an angel on Friday.
Happily Ticked Off Tip #21: Don’t just wear tee shirts promoting kindness. Live it. Even when it’s hard. It’ll shape your character, and someone else’s, more than you’ll ever know.