This morning I witnessed a miracle in my classroom. In the span of a few moments, faces were lifted, bonds were made, and friendships were salvaged.
The year is coming to an end. Some weeks it feels as if first grade is racing ahead, no matter how hard I try to push it back. Other weeks drag by slowly, one day crawling towards the next.
The last week and a half has crawled by slowly. There have been grouchy words. Pouty faces. Hurt feelings. Tattling voices. Whiny tones.It started out as gradually as a spring rain shower. But lately it’s been a full-blown storm. No one person is to blame for the shift in the atmosphere, but I can point out one person who has grouched the loudest, stood the stiffest, and frowned the most.
Between the committees, the meetings, the paperwork, the tests, the grades, the field days, and the field trips, my classroom has somewhat lost a little bit of the routine that makes us happiest! As a result, we have become out of sorts, resulting in arguments and fights and tears and rifts.
Yesterday I drove home thinking of the ways I was going to make the fussing stop. What consequence would I need to enforce in order to MAKE these kids stop fussing so much–and of course this, in turn, would make me stop fussing so much, right?
My idea bucket came up empty time and time again. And then, I thought of this…
Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Could it be that simply saying the nice things inside of us would make a difference? That grace would fall on us all with “building up” words?
I have a wonderful class. They are smart, kind, and funny. I know that they have words to build each other up, but I realized that lately in the end-of-year rush, I have not heard nor have I encouraged those words.
So this morning, before doing ANYTHING, I pointed out the problem that I am seeing in our little classroom community. I pointed out the fussing, and asked the kids what kinds of things we’d been doing because of the fussing.
We’ve been tattling.
We’ve been fighting.
We’ve been yelling.
We’ve been hurting each other.
We’ve been sad.
So I pointed out the obvious. How our faces look, how our body language has changed. How we’ve lost some of our “happy”. They glumly agreed, their eyes shifting around.
And then, I told them we were going to practice saying only kind words. Only. Kind. Words.
And it started with me. I picked a friend who has been on the receiving end of my fussing more than once lately and looked him in the eyes and told him he was one of the best readers in first grade. I told him that I was proud of the reader that he had become and how hard he has been working at school.
Then I also told him I liked his shoes.
He sat up straighter. His cheeked got a little pink. His eyes started twinkling and his lips started twitching.
He said both things made him feel so happy, but that one made him feel better than the other. We wanted to know what made him the happiest and he said “the part about me being a good reader. It made me know I was smart.”
Another child said, “Mrs. Givens, when you said he was a good reader, then we all knew he had to be a good reader.”
And I was reminded of how powerful words are, especially mine, the teacher’s.
No one mentioned the shoes.
We realized that while nice words are always wanted, words about us make us happier than words about our clothes, hair, and appearance.
“So, now we practice!” I said.
They got into groups of three. Their groups were not exactly their best playground buddies, either. One by one, they took turns looking at each other and telling nice words about each friend. They were a little hesitant at first, but as the words began to flow, the atmosphere shifted.
And that’s when the miracle happened.
Before my eyes, faces lifted. Eyes gleamed. Backs became straighter. Ugly words became forgotten.
You’re the nicest friend I’ve had.
You always help me if I drop my crayons.
You listen to Mrs. Givens so well in math. You’re so good at math.
You always play with me when no one else will.
You are smart.
You are a good listener.
I like the way you always take care of stuff.
I like you.
They smiled. They giggled. They blushed. They glowed.
All because of nice words.
I stood by my counter just watching and blinked my eyes rapidly and cleared my throat a few times to keep the tears at bay. The transformation was so quick and so touching.
All because of nice words.
The change remained throughout the day, with only a handful of moments that needed reminders about nice words.
I know that we will still need reminders. I know all of our problems aren’t solved. But today, I watched lives change in my classroom. Because of nice words.
It got me to thinking. What if the fantastic group of teachers that I work with got together in small groups, looked each other in the eyes, and told each friend something great about that person?
What if my group of friends sincerely told each other of the good that we see in each of us?
What if families spent more time saying nice words than they did fussing and running from one place to the next?
The miracle of words could eventually change the world! I know for sure that it did in my classroom today. 🙂
You are such a good teacher, Paige!
Thank you! There’s no better compliment for a teacher! 🙂
Sticks and stones HURT my bones, but kind words make me HAPPY!
This is my prep time and I am sitting here reading your blog post….I do not feel guilty because this post helped me prep for this afternoon and days to come on into the next school year. It is not everyday that I read your blog because we all can find so much more that we need to be doing. When I do I am always blessed and usually the words always move me to try and be a better person/teacher. Probably need to add this to my schedule!!!
Thank you Paige for being such a wonderful patient ,kind, and encouraging person.
I need this in my own life! Wish we would have an entire day across the world that we could only say nice words…. Especially the news…. Kids can be so much smarter than grown-ups.