My daughter had probably one of the best kindergarten teachers in the history of education. She took a room full of little children from a variety of backgrounds and turned them into a sharp bunch of students. At the end of the year, all of the students made the principal a book. The other kindergarten classes had papers with writing that went everywhere and made little sense. Mrs. S had students whose work was just beautiful. The sentences looked like they had been written by much older children. Even the drawings were neat.
Mrs. S didn’t stop with academics. Her students were the best behaved and neatest students in the school. She demanded they wipe their feet before entering her room. She constantly washed their hands with Purell and expected them to behave. In fact, she had a reputation for being one of the strictest teachers in the school.
Yet the children absolutely adored her! They would do anything for Mrs S and had. Years after they left her classroom, many of them still kept in touch with her, even when she retired. After watching her in action for a year, I think she taught me a lot as a parent about how to get only the best from a child.
1. She loved them no matter what. Mrs. S absolutely loved everyone of her students, no matter how unlovable they may have seemed. You could see it in her eyes, in the way she talked about them and in the way she talked to them.
2. She not only expected them to respect her, but she also respected them. She treated the children just as she wished to be treated. She listened to what they had to say, celebrated their successes and sympathized with their traumas. She was polite, but firm when they needed correction.
3. She expected the best from her students and usually received it. Whether it was academics or behavior, Mrs S always assumed her students would give her their best efforts. They usually did.
4. She gave them the best possible instruction including extra help when it was needed. Her patience was evident when trying to help a child grasp a concept that seemed out of reach for them. Mrs S understood that many lessons must be repeated many times before they are incorporated.
5. Nothing that was important to her students was trivial to her. If a student was excited or very sad, Mrs S was empathetic, even if the event seemed minor to her as an adult. She understood that from the child’s perspective that event may have been the very most important thing in their life so far. She knew that this would seem minor to them in a few years, but loved them enough to give their current feelings the respect and empathy they needed.
6. She let her students hear her tell everyone how special she thought they were. None of the students was perfect, but if you heard Mrs S talk about them, you were convinced they just might have been.
7. She loved spending time with her students outside of class doing the things they enjoyed. I am not sure how many ice cream sundaes Mrs S has eaten over the years, but she adored going places with her children during her free time. When she was with them on an adventure, they were the most important person in the world. She made sure they had her full attention and experienced all the adventure had to teach.
As a teacher, I learned a lot from Mrs. S. I think I learned more from her as a parent. I try to remember how she treated her students and treat all the children I come in contact with the same way. It is amazing to me how much the average child blossoms when you treat them like Mrs S treated her students. Try it and let me know what you think!