We all enjoying pushing our students, no not physically but in their learning and understanding. Sometimes we do this by making the assignments a little harder, or by altering the expectations. Then there are times where challenge out students by doing that which we all have difficulty doing – self reflection.
One of the key elements that I constantly discuss and remind my students of when we are talking about leadership is that anyone, at any age, in any place can be a leader. While discussing this one of my students said Shawn (yes they call me by my first name) “only important people become leaders”. To which I responded but all people are important, we all have something to say and something to give. One of my other students stated, well yeah, but you are a teacher you are important.Feeling a little concern I decided that it was time to change direction.
I wanted my kids to build something that all leaders have, confidence. For me, in relation to leadership this means that you as an individual feel that you are important enough or having the appropriate knowledge to help or share with others. It also bothered me that my students felt that they weren’t important.
Determined to somehow get my students to believe that they are important. I wrote a simple question on the white board.
Tell me one thing that makes you special or important.
I was disheartened when my students just looked at me with blank expressions on their faces. So I asked the question again still no answer. I tried a change in direction asking them, why am I important. This they will able to answer saying because you are a teacher, because you help people, because you teach us.
O.k. great, so what are some things about you that make you special or great, I asked again. After these last three answers I stopped the lesson, not because the students didn’t grasp it, because . . . . .
“I’m not important, my dad doesn’t even call me to talk to me”
“If I was important, than my family would come and visit me”
“I’m not as important as my brother, he still gets to live with mom”
I can honestly say that I have never cried because of a lesson or something that occurred in class, but this was close. Close enough for me to ask my Educational Assistant to put the students on the computer, while I went to get a coffee (take a breather). These were not the answers I expected, but they are valid answers and ones that need to address with my students one day. It just caught me off-guard, that a students self worth could be annihilated at such a young age. and that I also felt like I had failed my students by doing the opposite of making them feel important.
Presently, I am re-evaluating my strategy and approach in regards to answering my original question, if you have any suggestions that would be great.