After an emotionally exhausting yet exhilarating week, I saw our students have another year of Identity Day, said goodbye to our grade 6 students, and watched the school say goodbye to me. I shed a lot of tears this last week both privately and openly with my school community and heard some of the sweetest things from my students. Here are some of the things that were confirmed to me by our kids:
- Students need to continue to pursue their passions in schools. Watching Identity Day happen again, our students fully understood what the day looked like, and instead of being bored by the novelty of the day, they were more excited to further share the amazing things that they loved. What is extremely powerful about this day is not only watching students present what they love, but watching students looking at other displays and being so inspired by what they are seeing. When someone has the opportunity to inspire someone else with their passion, they become a leader. If I could suggest anything from Identity Day that I would change, it would be that we do it more. Seeing what our students achieve through personalized, passion-based learning is amazing. For two years in a row, Identity Day has been my favourite day of the school year. If your school is NOT doing it, they should.
- The smallest actions can have the biggest implications. One day I saw a young man in grade two having a terrible start to his morning. Instead of asking him what was wrong, I just asked him if he would like to do morning announcements that day. He immediately lit up and I have never seen him so excited. Now this happened a good three months ago if not longer, and today in the student led farewell to me, the student said the following thing that he remembered about me: “Mr. Couros always cares about you. One day when I was having a bad day, Mr. Couros asked me to do announcements and he really cheered me up. I love you Mr. Couros.” I immediately sobbed! This was something that I was not expecting but I think that too often we worry too much about what people will think or how they react when we say something nice to them, when we should just say it.This is not just for us as teachers to our students, but this is for us as people. We need to continue to write cards, send personal emails, make kind comments, buy slurpees for our students, whatever, to show that we care. It makes all the difference.
- When “discipline” needs to be done with our students, it should be with a comforting hand, not an iron fist. One student that had the opportunity to say something at my farewell has been in my office several times this year. We have worked really hard to get him on the right track and have had some amazing conversations. Although sometimes I feel frustrated and so does he, I always end my conversations saying to him, “You know I believe and think the world of you right?” Whatever he has done, I ensure that he knows I care.When he had the opportunity to speak today, he said, “Mr. Couros is fair. Whenever I am in trouble, I will always think of Mr. Couros.” What made many of us laugh at the implication that he made, I could feel that he genuinely cared about me. You see a lot of students who are in trouble in the office, and they end up hating the person dealing with them. The thing is, these kids need us and we need to do whatever we can to help them. The old “kick in the pants” mentality moves them further away from someone they need. We need to continuously show these kids, no matter what mistake, that we care about them. There is no other option.
As I left Forest Green School today, which was an amazing community, I have many memories of an incredible two years at the school. Moving into my new position next year, I know that the lessons that I have continuously learned from my staff, our parents, and especially our students, are lessons that I need to continue to draw upon and bring to other schools. What I have learned more than anything though in the last two years is that I need to be a learner, continuously growing and getting better for the kids I serve. Learning can be very messy, but if you are not moving forward, there are only two other things that you can possible be doing. I choose forward.