A friend of mind started teaching thirty one years ago. She’s retiring this summer. She gave an in-service about teaching and interpersonal communication "with the difficult child", and I was lucky enough to attend.
She spent five years in the Marine Corps as a Drill Sergeant. She’s five feet one and keeps her weight at 105 lbs. On the back wall of her office reads the sign, "Dynamite comes in small sticks."
She started the lecture with the sentence, “I have never raised my voice or looked unkindly or with anger in the face of a single child.”
“Kids are not always easy. If we are going to serve those we care about, we have to love them in spite of their response to us. Just steady. Just calm.”
“I adored these children. And if I expected any of them to like me, or if my sense of self was frayed just slightly at the sound of criticism or disrespect, that inner insecurity would flip the switch to anger in a flash.”
“I put my needs away. I quiet that surge of upset within me. I pause. I breathe in a prayer. A really quick prayer, because I have things to do, but you understand what I’m describing.” We laughed.
“I recognize the struggle they have. Every one of them is far better on the inside than they appear on the outside. So I look into that heart. I let them have their say. Then, quietly, I have mine. From the heart of goodness within me-and I hope it's still there-I communicate to the heart of goodness within them. ”
“And,” she said, “We end on an easy, smiling note. Not one they necessarily agree with, but a good note, to be sure. A calm state. One that is equally understanding.”
“I learned to do that with my husband years ago, when I was in the military. Lord, he can be a pain in my behind. He’s the opposite of me in his responses to nearly everything. He was a Drill Instructor, too, but he’s a yeller. Or was. My response calmed him down after about month two of our marriage."
"So I didn’t just do this at school. I started at home. And, back then, I knew that if I could do it with that hard head I’m married to, these kids will be a piece of cake.”
My friend was named Teacher Of The Year and a plaque will be erected at her school in her name. Her husband, at last report, is still behaving.