Yesterday I was reminded how powerful our words are. I had an interaction with a student whom my words had caused anxiety and stress. A few weeks ago, I opened my mouth and inserted my foot. That set up a situation where when I had a conversation with a student, they were already feeling intimidated and words that I viewed as honest and helpful, were taken as critical and harsh. Now, I know that my words were taken through the filter of an emotional 8th grader, and my first instinct was to blow their hurt off and chalk it up to middle school drama.
Something stopped me from doing this, and put this situation on my heart. I ended up pulling the student in, apologizing and having one of those great conversations that remind me why I became a teacher in the first place. You see, I had forgotten that 1. as an adult my words are very powerful,
2. middle school is a horrid thing to go through, and 3. kindness and humility are good for everyone. Apologizing to this student may have made them feel better, but it was huge relief for me. It felt like I was throwing off the cloak of crankiness and self-centeredness and remembering that the world is bigger than me.
Too often I embrace the idea that I am too busy, stressed, tired, etc, to stop and be kind to anyone. I feel like I have absorbed a societal disease that is reaching pandemic levels. I see it on television, on the road while driving, at the store, in my own relationships and interactions. We as a society appear to have be losing the ability to stop and make time to be kind. I feel like as we become more "connected" via media, we become more disconnected from basic manners. How often do I encounter someone who budges the line, or expresses annoyance that they have to wait, while they are typing away on their cellphone? They don't make eye contact with anyone around them, and barely acknowledge the person helping them. How often do I hear "I am too busy to deal with that"? I think it is time we all acknowledge that everyone is busy and move on.
My words were brusque, because I was solely focused on myself. Due to that focus, I hurt a child's feelings. I made a child cry, and that makes me cry. If I had just taken a moment to stop and think, to put on my manners and really listen to what the child was saying, I could have avoided the whole situation. How often have I hurt others in the same way? This is not the person I want to be, and more importantly it is not the example that I want to set for my son. I want him to see that treating others with kindness and consideration is a reward unto itself.
Yesterday, I had to force myself to slow down and take fifteen minutes to talk to this student. Yes, it was fifteen minutes past when I was supposed to working, and yes it was fifteen minutes away from my son. However, that fifteen minutes was a powerful reminder of the importance of kindness. My apology was heard, and I felt like the student and I left with a much better relationship than we had before. For that fifteen minutes, I was able to let them know that I remember how scary middle school can be, that we don't all do things right,and most importantly that their thoughts and feelings mattered. They were able to reminded me that I need to be conscience about how I treat others and more humble about my day. It may sound strange, but I was thankful for the reminder.