I want to introduce you all to Lindsay Bowley. She is a teacher, and an advocate for adults to take care and nurture children. She guest blogs for Wellspring Living the second Thursday of every month about lessons learned in the classroom, and how we can teach a generation to understand their value and worth. We are honored to have her share her words!

School is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts.  One thing I love about my job is I have the opportunity to start over after every summer.  I get to start fresh with a brand new set of kids, blank classroom walls that beg for posters, and a rejuvenated spirit calmed by the restful weeks of vacation.   Even a school’s grading system is designed for new beginnings!

Each quarter the slate is wiped clean and students are given the opportunity to have a blank grade book again, free from any mistakes of the previous quarter.  My job gives me lots of leeway to learn from my mistakes.  My summers are spent working and preparing to make the next year even better than the first. If a lesson doesn’t go well one year, I can just tweak it and try again next year. What a blessing to have the kind of job that continually allows for new beginnings!

The problem is – my students don’t always feel the clean slate of a new year like I do.  Many kids walk in my classroom on the first few days of school uttering self-fulfilling prophecies to me like “I never did my work last year” or “I always got in trouble”.  Statements like these become beliefs in the minds of students who do not have adults in their life willing to challenge their own self-created reputation.  Often, students may be carrying more than just a poor self-image on their shoulders.  Some carry the weight of parents getting divorced.  Many carry the weight of abuse.  Studies have shown that when students have such traumatic circumstances present in their lives, it chemically alters not only how they view themselves, but also how they view authority in their life.

As teachers, parents, and caretakers, it is our responsibility – better yet – our CALLING to give students a safe place where they can go to start over. Here are a few strategies I do at the beginning of the year to foster this kind of atmosphere:

  1. I develop a behavior system that utilizes positive reinforcement.
  2. I stay AWAY from my new students’ former teachers who want to “warn” me about the “bad kids”.
  3. I corporately and personally take the time to tell my students that they get to “start fresh” in my classroom.
  4. I catch difficult students being good and then make a big deal about it.
  5. I give out a survey to try to understand my students’ unique interests and abilities. I then use that information to engage them.
  6. I teach each of my classes to have a “culture of encouragement”.  We clap when someone does well and say “thank you” when we are given something.
  7. Before reprimanding a student for bad behavior, I point out what he or she is doing well.
  8. I do not allow students to talk negatively about themselves in front of me.
  9. I greet my students at the door and have a happy demeanor in class.

It is amazing what a positive culture can do to transform the attitudes of young minds!  Students, especially teenagers, are looking for the approval and help of adults in their life. You will never know the impact a positive adult can make in the life of a child!  Are you willing to give the kids in your care a fresh start?