Critical memories: Shaping our practice

This morning I read a blog post by Principal Jimmy Casas. In this post, Jimmy talks about a home visit on which he accompanied his principal earlier in his career and how that’s played out in his current role and philosophy of serving students. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter; his commitment to his school community and the education community is evident.

Reading about his experience took me back to a time earlier in my career that shaped my current practice and, really, shaped how I viewed others from that very moment. I was a 6th grade language arts and social studies teacher. In my fourth year of teaching, there was a point mid-fall that one particular student was exhibiting some attention-seeking behavior; at that time, it seemed immature and as his teacher I found it frustrating. I decided it was time to call mom during my prep and ‘tell’ her what I was seeing in the classroom so we could correct his behavior. Fortunately, I paused after telling Mom I had some concerns about behavior. She asked if anyone had shared what was happening at home. No one had, which is a different, disappointing post altogether, so I asked her to share. My student had 4-year-old twin brothers, and Mom shared that one of them was stricken with a cancer that he was not likely to overcome. I vividly remember leaning on the doorway of my classroom on the telephone, appalled that I had jumped to this conclusion that a student was choosing to misbehave when his family was essentially in crisis. Sadly, he did lose his brother in the months that followed.

I was also pregnant with my first child that year, and my team teacher and our classes threw a baby shower for me. My student, G, remembered a yellow flower container that had fallen from my desk and broken months prior. As a gift at the shower, he gave me a yellow candle holder and candle hoping to replace what I had lost. I’ve kept that the past 11 years as a reminder of what he lost and the challenges that are part of our students’ daily lives; I’ve kept it as a reminder that we MUST take time to learn our students’ stories and consider how we can support them rather than punitively punish or prematurely judge. I’ve kept it as a visual cue to keep me from making that mistake again for I still need that reminder from time to time.

Jimmy shared his home visit; I’ve shared my story about G. What moments significantly shaped how you view students, families and your role as an educator?