Set Your Own Expectations

If we became only what other people thought we would become, many of us would have never achieved half of our accomplishments.  Somewhere through the negative noise and circumstances, I told myself that I was going to make something out of nothing.  Some of this came from positive television shows that depicted the awesomeness of college and success, along with great movies that showed the underdog coming out triumphant every time.  Looking back now, that was a window out of my dark world and into an opportunity that helped create my ambitious spirit.  We become what we see around us.  I was influenced by more than just the images I saw on TV, but by amazing people who used their gifts to love and lead me.

An aunt that I grew up around always expected excellence from me.  My aunt spoke to me in a way that helped me to see the greatness in myself.  I always felt like she was my personal guardian angel, but she used her gifts to support and encourage her friends, family, and students .  Being around her always made me strive for more, despite anything that I was going through at the time.  The seeds of success had been planted by family and teachers throughout my life, but while I was in high school my aunt tilled and cultivated my intellectual, emotional, and social garden.  She did not allow me to make excuses or pity myself.  She helped me to see the lessons in my negatives and taught me how to use them as positives in my future.  She allowed me to speak freely, but did not allow me to retain that bitterness and anger that permeated my soul at times.

These important moments in my life taught me that no matter what others said I would or would not be, what others assumed I could or could not achieve, or whatever things I did not have were not determinative of my success.  When I went off to college, I did not have anyone pushing me to be the best.  The first semester I coasted through and ended up with mediocre grades.  I had to refocus myself, decide if college was where I wanted to be, and step up to the plate to prove to MYSELF that I belonged at Howard.  There were so many times when I wanted to give up, but I had to remind myself that I was built to win and the end result would be worth the sacrifice.

Many times we allow others to set expectations for us.  We live up to the standards that are set by those around us.  If the expectations are high and we do not achieve it or if the expectations are low and we exceed them, our success or failures could become a stumbling block to getting to our true purpose.  If you want the most out of life, YOU have to expect more out of yourself and follow your heart, not just simply achieving what others want for you.  People may see you working hard and admire you, but you know if you need to put in more work to get to the next level.  Outsiders may exalt you for what you have done, but you have to remain focused on where it is that you want to end up.  People may laugh at your failures and remind you of where you said you would be, but only bitter people measure your failures against their standard of success. Remain driven, passionate, and ambitious to not lose sight of your dreams.

Expect greatness from yourself.  Walk in excellence.  Speak positively.  Teach willingly.  Live in humility.  Give your all to everything that matters to you most.

Set your own expectations.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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One Teacher’s Love Changed My Life

I read this story (see link below) that popped up on my Twitter timeline and felt a flood of memories and emotions come rushing into my head that were invoked by the similarities to the incident that this mother has endured. She describes an incident of her child misbehaving at school and immediately being suspended.  This incident was followed by a few more instances of inappropriate behavior and more 1 day suspensions by not only her 4-year-old, but also her 3-year-old son who was in the same school.  The story proceeds to discuss her own experience of being suspended from preschool and the damage it did to her psyche when the teacher admonished her and labeled her as “bad.”

I immediately relived my own suspension at 3 years old at my small private Catholic school in Connecticut.  Although I cannot blame it purely on race, I know that the entire situation traumatized me and remained ingrained into my brain forever.  Thankfully, the teacher who recommended that I be suspended retired and a new pre-school teacher took over her class.  As many years as it has been since I was in that room, I remember the smile and spirit of the kindest woman I have ever known.

This time, as a 4-year-old, my experience was different.  I know me now, so I can only imagine then that I wanted to be the center of attention and show off all of my knowledge.  Ms. Eddie saw this and instead of suppressing my boisterous spirit, she encouraged it.  She would let me sit in her chair and read to the class or allow me to work with other students who may have needed help learning their ABCs.  And from that year on, I rarely had any disciplinary problems in school.  I fell in love with learning and always excelled because I had confidence in myself and I didn’t have my past mistakes following me from classroom to classroom.

When I matriculated to the next grade, Ms. Eddie would always request that I come to her room and read to her new class of students.  Her actions made my other teachers notice how I learned and they too allowed me to be who I needed to  be to succeed.  When I got to the 2nd or 3rd grade, my teacher allowed me to teach a new student who had arrived from Poland how to speak English.  That was my assignment, to sit in the back of the classroom and work with her on the very basics.  It was one of my proudest moments in life, to see my peer read an entire book in a language that I helped her learn.

Over the years, my father would beg the teachers to give me extra work so that I would not ruin the classroom environment for everyone else.  When they didn’t listen, I would distract others who were moving “too slow” or act in a way that I am even ashamed to type about.  My scariest moment in school was when I was laying across the desk and I saw my father’s head peep into the window and I thought my life was over.  He walked in as the class was leaving and asked my teacher why she allowed me to be such a distraction and proceeded to discipline me in the bathroom.

I am blessed that none of my teachers ever labeled me, recommended suspensions or publicly humiliated me in front of the entire class.  I see so much of myself in my son and I know the type of environment he will need to thrive.  So many family members and seasoned parents have told me to observe classroom’s prior to enrolling my son in school, because boys are different.  Their attention spans, the way they react and interact may be different, but it does not have to be labeled as difficult.  I have always realized that Ms. Eddie was one of my many angels.  She gave her life to her students, but more importantly she gave them unconditional love.

We have to get back to a time where students are not treated like factory workers, but instead individualized people with individualized learning styles and habits.  This article reinforces my search for the perfect environment for my mini me.  I hope that he never has to experience the humiliation of a school suspension at such a young age and it is my job to try to prevent it.

For our futures.  For our sons.  For our daughters.  For a better education system.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/07/24/my-son-has-been-suspended-five-times-hes-3/

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork: 5 Ways to Best Support Your Child’s Teacher

On this second installment of Guest Room, an amazing teacher shares some tips for parents on how to best support their child’s teacher to ensure academic success.


 

I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. The kids are pretending NOT to see it. Displays for school supplies are popping up and kids are looking down. As we prepare to enter into the new school year, let’s keep in mind five easy peasy (lemon squeezy) ways you can support your child and your child’s teacher.

 

1. Meet your child’s teacher. Sounds easy enough. But the number of people that send me their baby and have no idea who I am or what my philosophy on teaching is would surprise you. Teachers are people. We get busy schedules. We get conflicting Open House schedules. We get limited job flexibility schedules. We get ALL of that. But we do NOT get not (yes, double negative) placing your eyes on the person responsible for helping to mold your little person. If you cannot make Open House, the ideal time to meet and greet, consider sending an email with a day and time that does work for you. Teachers want to meet you. We want to have a chance to speak with you and hear about your precious child from you. We want to start the year off with an open line of communication. If Thursday is the only day that works with your schedule, most teachers will make a way to meet with you on Thursday despite that being their hot yoga day.

 

2a. Do not withhold academic information. “Well we just wanted him/her to have a fresh start…” I understand the fear of labeling and preconceived notions. But some information ABSOLUTELY needs to be shared with your child’s new teacher. Accommodations do not mean your child can’t learn. Accommodations mean your child learns differently. If I am unaware of how they learn best, I cannot give them the best. Teachers want to see your child successful. In a class of at least 20 students, we understand someone will not always get it. Someone will need extra time. Knowing how your child learns or struggles your child has helps us to differentiate the material. Parents are often too concerned with the product. Teachers are more concerned with the process. We have 180 days (if government funding hasn’t been cut) to prepare your baby for the next grade. The process to the product is different for most students. Trust the process.

 

2b. Do not withhold (all) personal information. Unfortunately our kids are seeing and experiencing waaaay more than we did at their age. I am interested in more than just the academic growth of your child. I am interested in their social growth as well. If past experiences could potentially limit your child I need to know. Details aren’t necessary. But a general idea can help me relate to your child. Two years ago I had a student who came from an environment where domestic violence was the norm. Loud noises made him shut down. Loud noises in my class very seldom mean things have gone awry. Generally, we are doing a class cheer or having a little silly transition time. This student shut all the way down and I had no idea why. Thankfully, the older sibling was able to provide insight. He didn’t give details. He simply said, “He doesn’t like loud noises.” That was enough for me to taper class activities he was involved in. (He has since adapted to loud noises and he is no longer in that environment.)Much of the hidden curriculum teaches “life stuff.” We need to know how far to push a child to present a project, are there any sensitive subjects, are they easily embarrassed or frightened, do loud noises adversely affect them? Information about your child helps us to better reach your child. Please share information.

 

3. Communicate. In this fast paced world, face-to-face communication can sometimes prove to be challenging. (i.e. meeting your child’s teacher) However, communication can be easy IF the lines of communication are open BOTH ways. I am an early childhood educator. I send home some form of communication every. single. day. It may be a note jotted at the bottom of the behavior sheet, a SHOUT of praise in the agenda, or a “we need to talk at your earliest convenience” message on pretty stationary. Whatever the form of communication may be, please acknowledge it. Sign the daily behavior sheet or agenda. Write me a note telling me you all tried the math homework but were stumped with numbers 4 and 7. Write me a note saying she’s checking out early and it would be helpful if she went to lunch with her backpack. Write me a note saying his beloved dog of eight years died and he might be a little sad as he deals with his first loss. Just write me a note. We do not have to wait until parent-teacher conference night to talk about six weeks of school. Let’s communicate throughout the year.

 

4. Trust the teacher. This is general but it applies to many areas. Trust the teacher is a professional who is trained in child pedagogy and current on best practices. Trust the teacher wants the best for your baby. Teaching is a labor of love. We are trained professionals. Some of which have student loan debt that far exceeds yearly income. We are not here for the money. (Not here to be poor but that’s another topic for another time.) We are here for the kids and need you to know we are NEVER rooting against your child, we are hoping and praying for their growth and advancement. “We never have this problem at home.” I believe you. But you also don’t have twenty-one other students at home. Your child treats us the way they see you treat us. Trust us and treat us with respect. If you promise not to believe everything they tell you happened at school, I promise not to believe everything they tell me happened at home.

 

 

Cherelle Jones is a public school educator in a Title I school in Georgia. She is the proud leader of Jonesville, a small, quaint community of learners being positioned to change the world.