I began thinking of how the last two weeks have been FILLED WITH LIFE. A few days before school started I was informed Sofia was coming to my school!
At first I thought it was a cruel joke. Even though I was knocked to my knees when she was suddenly pulled last year, I couldn't afford to harbor bitter feelings if I was going to get back up determined to spread more love than ever, in hopes of reducing the massive amounts of anger and pain that cause such things to happen all over the world.
(Thank you Andrea Bocelli for helping me get through that time in a spirit of love and hope v. anger and hate. You choosing to not give up and develop your musical gifts in spite of your blindness affected my life in a very positive way. I will choose not to give up in spite of my own "imperfections" and difficulties).
As a result, this experience caused Sofia and I to appreciate our time together even more, and further strengthened our bond....all without taking anything away from her own bond with her mother, which in my opinion is critical for every child.
And if she is taken away again this year, I've been looking at it as if someone offered me life, letting me know it could be taken away at any time for any reason, would I still want it?...........My answer to that has been a resounding YES!....and is the same one I give to Sofia....because even the thought of her gives me life, and she is without a doubt worth risking another heartbreak.
If a heart attack six years ago couldn't kill me, no amount of heartbreaks over the next 60 will either....And perhaps, just as broken bones heal back stronger at the point of the break, maybe the heart does too....
(yardsticks don't seem to heal at all)
Many of the past years' students have stopped by, called, emailed and sent text messages. Even before I told them the miracle they pulled off on the state scores (1 year plus 121 points v. 18), their enthusiasm and appreciation for how they were taught warmed my heart and gave me vital energy to warm the hearts and set fire to the minds of the new students.
No matter how successful the past year was, each teacher starts the new "season" with all new players.....all of them rookies that need to learn and buy into your system, and buy into themselves as capable of creating incredible accomplishments. I am happy to say that each one has received lightening bolts from me of what they CAN DO, and seem to have been thunderstruck by it. As a result, the mini-miracles have already begun:
The first night only 7 students did their reading, the next all but two, and by the third, 100%! More than half the class has read so much more than what's required (30 minutes/night) I've joked that at this rate they won't have to read again until high school (which allowed me to do a comedic skit about this that made them fall out of their chairs).
In December of last year, while waiting for the class to stop laughing, I told them that no matter how we did on the state tests, we could say we couldn't have had a better time. *Build relationships with your students that allow them to trust you to push them, and mix in as much laughter as learning, and you have the antidote for the "no-time-for-smiles-we-have-to-get-all-this-covered-and-even-if-you-do-well-you-won't-remember most-of-it-so-what's-the-point-of-school-anyway" mentality.
The more fun and self-directed learning is, the more learning actually takes place,and not just for a test, but for a lifetime.
One student who has never finished a book in her life just finished her first one, in only the first 7 days of school! School CAN BE an incredible place of life-changing growth. Her mother told me she had a low confidence level, which helped me work on this from day one (furthering my belief how critical the parent-teacher communication and relationship is).
And today I have to talk to a student who has lied about her reading, forging her mother's signature. When I was told by her previous teacher she would lie and not to trust her, my response was that she might have such little importance in her world that she has to falsely create it, and "thank you for making me aware of this".
So even before I met her I scoured her file for anything I could see as strengths, and paid attention to additional strengths once I met her. Now I'm prepared to help her change her life by helping her get rid of a negative habit she no longer needs. I'll fill this void in her with concrete examples of her importance, telling her I trusted her and could choose to stop, but I won't because she's already given me all these reasons to continue believing in her. She is already good enough AS-SHE-IS without having to make up stories to get it.
Although I'm wiping away ALL her minutes (even the ones her mother did verify - my consequences for dreaming and doing little are BIG) I am sure she will work as hard as she has to to get all those minutes back, and then some.
As I'm feeling the water wake me up now I'm also feeling my true belief in her waking up to the point that when we have this talk in just a few hours she will literally be thunderstruck by how positive another person sees her.
How do I know this will happen? Because when I looked in the mirror I didn't see tired, blood-shot eyes......I saw THUNDER!
And that's exactly what she's going to see; my thunderous belief in her being bigger and stronger than any of the self doubts she's learned about herself....and you don't mess with Mr. Stuart's belief in you! It's just too POWERFUL!
Which leads me to the comments I receive from you all, including the ones I saw on my MySpace front page this morning.....I am honestly thunderstruck at your appreciation and belief in me.......and although I can't respond to each one, I thank you all for being such an important addition to my energy source. Being compared to Michael Phelps and asked to be a part of educating future teachers is powerful. Sofia's mom called yesterday to tell me someone had quoted me and called me the next Dr. Seuss. You know where she read it???? In the bathroom stall of a local restaurant!!!!! How often do you read anything positive in a bathroom stall?
And to be completely honest, over the summer I was telling myself I had no time or energy to write anymore and was convinced I had written my last post. Then I got a call from my brother, telling me he had been down and went online to his favorite writer to get pumped back up. When I told him that was great he said, "I'm talking about you, dummy!"
Since he's never commented I had no idea he even read my posts. After his call, I was thunderstruck to the point that the sleeping lion in me became fully awake, and none too soon because in many parts of the world education, politics, humanity, etc is being attacked by a lion of fear and conformity. This isn't OK, and we need to speak out and share stories of overcoming this with examples of courage and individuality working together, creating SYNERGY! And this takes time and energy.
*Now, having written this all in my head three days ago in the shower and finally getting it posted today on Labor Day - I can think of no better labor for myself than toiling to find the good in all of humanity, to see it and feel it within me to such a degree that it becomes unleashed in a storm of thunder and lightening, electrifying those it reaches with how good we already are and how truly great we can be.....and having that energy returned so we can continue giving to each other.
To teachers, coaches, parents, spouses, etc.....We are all like tough middle linebackers helping those we care about tackle their fears and doubts, and as agile quarterbacks helping to guide them to the incredible, limitless possibilities of themselves........And although this takes more energy than it seems we have, I think it's the electrical storm of the thunderbolt that activates great energy in others..........
The student who felt she had to lie to get what she wanted.....left our conversation looking more confident in herself than I've ever seen her in these past two weeks.
And the little girl who has now read her first book......is so far ahead in her work that she is helping create an electronic study guide that will help her classmates develop deeper understandings of the material, electrifying them as more and more neural connections of meaning are made in their brains.
beating in their hearts.