Several years back, I had one of the best years teaching ever. But all that changed.
Each day that year, I was excited to get to school. I was in a good mood almost every day.
I’ll be honest, I hate change. This is where Beth comes in. Do you know someone who is always grumpy? Doesn’t like anyone’s suggestions? Complains about every. little. thing? Well, this was not Beth!
My Beth was the complete, total, as far opposite of what I described as possible, if that’s possible. Beth was like a bouncy ball of sunshine, at least at work around the students.
Beth was happy, smiley, friendly, caring, willing to do anything. She was everything wonderful all rolled up into a young person with a bad back….oops, that’s another story.
She was the paraprofessional, teaching assistant, aide – whatever you call it, who worked in the primary behavior classroom… yeah, BEHAVIOR classroom (a whole other story).
Every morning, her duty was to wait in the hallway where the buses unloaded and then escort the students in her class to their room. But Beth being Beth, didn’t just wait. She greeted almost every student who walked in the door…by name.
I, personally, am horrible with remembering names…so this amazed me. There were only like 6 kids in her classroom….6. That’s all she needed to know. But she knew almost every kid. Around 250 kids were in just our 2nd grade alone…and it was a K-2 building!
Every morning, almost every kid got greeted…asked a question…smiled at….reminded to head down to breakfast….asked if they had studied for the spelling test. You get the idea, right?
I was lucky to have a room near the area she was at every morning. As I result, I would hear her talking to the students and a warm, happy glow would come over me. I would walk past her going to the copy machine, the bathroom, to the office, my mailbox…often, I would just walk over and stand in her presence hoping that some of her aura would hang onto me….helping me make it through my day…with 25 kids. It was a good year, in part, because of her.
One cloudy, rainy day in July after that happy year, I almost dropped my phone as I read on social media that she had accepted a job with an expanding business in our area. She wasn’t coming back to our school. It was a mind blowing moment. In a really bad way. The next year wasn’t the same. I didn’t look forward to going into work and I wasn’t in a happy place when the students arrived.
So, I thought about what I could do to get myself to that happy place. Music! I decided to make a playlist on my computer of my favorite, upbeat, get-me-smiling songs that I could play to get myself to that happy place before the kids came in my room each morning. It wasn’t Beth…but it might work.
Now that I was in the right mood, I needed to find a way to make the students feel welcome. I rolled my adjustable height comfy chair over to the classroom door and sat down. As each child walked in, I stopped him or her. I looked them in the eye (remember to lower that chair as low as it can go – just the right height for eye to eye). Each student was greeted by name or asked a personal question. I was trying to be the best Beth possible. Those kids ate it up! Someone wanted to talk to them – really talk to THEM and was smiling at them listening to what they had to say.
Boy, what a difference that eye to eye one on one mini conversation made that year. As a result, I really knew about my kids. Not just their test scores and academic strengths and weaknesses. I learned about favorite cereals, tv shows that were watched (appropriate or not), and their dreams for the future. I could relate to the baby at home that woke everyone up at 2:30 for a feeding and made my student so tired. When they talked about not getting much sleep because mom and dad were fighting, I shared how my parents did that too sometimes when I was a kid. The music and the chair were little changes that I made – but their impact was massive.
I hope your school has a Beth. Maybe, you are the Beth of your school. Or you try to be the Beth like I did. If not yet, tomorrow is a great day to try something new. Play your favorite songs or figure out what would work for you to GET HAPPY. Then share your happiness and make all of the students feel welcome, cared about, and important.
Maybe, just maybe, a teacher walking by your room might hear you and have a better day – like I did because of my Beth. Just imagine, you could become a Beth for another teacher too.