As a substitute teacher, I learned that if I came into a room bothered about stuff, the kids were terrors. If I spread a layer of calm in the room, the kids were angels.
I had one trouble-making girl in multiple classes. One day I watched Jessica with more detachment than I usually had towards her chaos, then called her to the teacher's desk while the rest of the class worked on their projects. "You have a lot of charisma", I said. "What's that?!", she demanded. Obviously she thought I was criticizing. "Charm. You're pretty, smart, and people look to you because you've got something special. When you've got that kind of power, it's up to you to decide what to do with it."
She looked confused. I'm sure she thought she was in trouble when I called her to the desk. "Just think about it. You can be anything you want, and life in middle school is just a blip in your life. Use your charisma for something good."
"I get bad grades." Her head dropped and she looked miserable and ashamed. "That's only one kind of smart. You have to be smart to cause this much trouble. Besides, if you put as much energy into your schoolwork as you did into getting in trouble your grades would be better." I could see her thinking hard.
Months later, I saw her helping another kid with his lessons. She glanced up and we understood each other. I smiled and she looked proud. My heart swelled. It's one of the good things I've done in my life. I found more kids to help in similar ways.
I was a good substitute teacher because I could have these kinds of little moments with bigger impact. I think I'd be terrible at the long haul of a regular classroom where I might be expected to keep it up. I wasn't always at the top of my game, but I cared about those kids. If political leaders cared about kids, would they be bombing them? Oh, but those kids don't look like my kids. Yeah? Well kids are kids. They all have potential. When you hurt them, they grow up and cause more hurt in the world. I just want to scream "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!"
Yesterday I listened to someone describing what another teacher said about his students. There wasn't anything good in it, and he shouldn't be a teacher. He's causing harm that goes beyond however much math he teaches them. He thinks he's better than "damned Mexicans" and can't see his attitude makes him ugly.
I'm upset about the bombing and shooting in the world. See your enemy as a person, and maybe you can see a solution to your differences. That's true in the big world, and it's true in our personal lives. On a good day I can de-escalate the drama around me. On a bad day I can make it worse. Mostly I want peace on the small and grand scale.People have been getting to me lately and I've been having a harder time trying to get along. Sometimes I need to remember that I know a little understanding upfront makes for a better life in the long haul. I escaped to the river at lunch yesterday to get my feet under me. It did my heart good to see kids playing in the water.