Courageous Conversations: Fortune Friday

I’ve decided I’m done counting school days. It has a negative connotation and it makes me feel like I’m racing against something. Additionally, I was counting incorrectly there for a while. We have 180 school days, not 160.

It’s miraculous that we are all doing as well as we are doing. Really…the human species is being asked to live and relate to each other in a radically different way than we ever thought we would.

I am working on sustaining my energy. On making it the next hour, minute, second. It is so hard to always stay positive when things are not very positive. I hate telling my students that they have to be distanced from each other all the time, and to always reminding them to stay farther apart.

So I sustain. I counterbalance the insanity of the world out there with the world in our classroom. Inside our classroom is a place of hope and joy and big picture challenges.

In our classroom we talk about racism. We talk about how people are hated for being a different color. We talk about how humans treat each other. We talk about relationships. We talk about things humans do to each other that are not peaceful and loving, and we talk about our responsibility to be kind and loving to each other. We fill each other’s emotional buckets. We talk about how to disagree. We talk about how to solve problems.

Every day this week after lunch we’ve had people with hurt feelings or hurt egos in our class.

I step the 2 or three children into the hall, we stand 6′ apart, and we talk. The hurt person goes first.

I say to them: “What bothered you?”

They say: “I didn’t like it when they ____.”

I say to them: “What do you need from them?”

They say (every time!): “I want an apology.”

The other child always looks at them and says “I’m sorry for ____.”

The hurt person says “it’s ok,” but I remind them…it’s NOT okay. BUT.

When they say “it’s ok,” what they are really doing is forgiving the person that hurt them. I coach them.

“It’s not okay. But you could say, “I forgive you.””

“I forgive you,” they say.

I ask them to elbow bump. All three (or more) of us elbow bump together like making an elbow bump cheer. They’ve been making eye contact the whole time.

(these are brave children)

I say, “we can let this go now, we will trust each other to do better next time.”

I was brave this week, too. I needed to tell a co-worker something I was uncomfortable with, and I bravely talked to them in person. It was incredibly hard, but I needed to do it in order to stay professional and be as ethical with them as possible. When I was a preschool teacher in the 1990’s, we worked very closely with NAEYC guidelines. I took the major work we did in the accreditation process for the San Francisco State University Associated Students Children’s Center (yes…that name is a handful, but that’s where I worked) and following the Code of Ethical Conduct deeply to heart. Learning those things is similar to learning to be anti-racist and being an anti-racist educator. MAJOR self reflection, MAJOR self-study and self-development. It changed me. It still changes me. It’s still the longest I ever worked at one place in my education career, and it was the first.

I have tried to live my life as an educator being as ethical as possible, with children, with parents, with administrators, and with co-workers. I do not like gossip at all and will slowly walk away if I see/hear it happening. I believe in going to the source and having the courageous conversations to solve the issue. It is just as hard as you can imagine.

As educators we have been trained to teach children to “use your words,” and “talk to the other person.”

I mean. Really. It’s ridiculous to ask them to do something most adults don’t do. It’s excruciatingly hard. And it’s a lifetime practice.

Maybe that’s my moral of the story today. Again, a reminder, that we get this entire life to figure out what being a human is. So as educators we have to give our students waaaaay more grace than we usually do. Examine your own work as an adult human, and then think about how hard it is for you. Don’t expect a child to be a master at something you’re still working with.

When you know better, do better.

And I mean that with all the love in the world.

As teachers, we DO know better. So do better. Swallow your pride. Let the child be right when they are right. Admit you messed up. This is the core of my relationship building skills with young people. I never assume I’m always right.

So, they can trust me. And I trust them.

You can do this, too.



If you want to learn more about the Code of Ethical Conduct and/or Accreditation, NAEYC has some great materials.

Article on Ethics and Covid-19

Code of Ethical Conduct Position Statement

NAEYC Accreditation Process

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