I love my job. Really. I do. That old saying about never working a day in your life-it couldn't ring more true.
I love pulling into an empty parking lot at 6:45 am before anyone else has arrived. I love climbing the stairs to the third floor hallway where my classroom is. The red and blue sailboats on my classroom door and the sign "Sailing Into 2H" put a smile on my face every single morning.
A certain calmness pervades my neatly organized classroom at this early hour that I have trouble finding elsewhere. I often catch myself humming and smiling as I write out the morning message on chart paper with bright Crayola markers. My students' hard work jumps off the bulletin boards that line my classroom walls and prompts me to think of the goals I have for each of them for the day.
My heart actually leaps a little when my students walk through the door at 8:15. I greet my kids with a cheery "good morning," along with a quick hug or a pat on the head.
One of my favorite parts of the day is when my students arrange themselves in a boy-girl circle, and greet one another with a handshake and a smile. Watching the children be respectful of one another and learn how to communicate is what teaching is all about. Helping each child to feel comfortable and confident within our classroom community.
Teaching children to read, write, add, and subtract is the easy part. These are concrete concepts that a child learns as he or she is developmentally ready. I can differentiate my instruction in so many ways that at least one strategy will be effective with each child. Teaching children how to read one another's emotions as well as their own is a whole other ballgame.
Emotional intelligence, a new buzzword on the rise in the education community, is how people control, perceive, and evaluate emotions: their own and others'. I would argue your EQ is even more important than your IQ (intelligence quotient). Just because you are the smartest person in the building doesn't mean you will get the job a hundred others are applying for.
"Smartest" doesn't necessarily correlate to "most successful." EQ is a critical skill in the majority of professions - you must be able to read the emotions of your boss and your colleagues to know how to interact with them. In a world of five-year-olds having their own cell phone and knowing how to use an iPad better than most adults, learning emotional intelligence is more important than ever.
Within my own classroom I use several strategies to help my students better understand and empathize with one another. My favorite of these strategies is our Tuesday Compliment Circle.
One day a week my students form a boy-girl circle. After we have greeted one another, I ask for 3 compliments from the children. They can compliment another child in our class, a sibling, a child in another class, or themselves. For example, Patrick said last week, “I compliment Allie for always playing with me on the playground even when she is already playing with someone else. It makes me feel happy.”
Allie beamed from ear to ear and Patrick was proud to share this compliment with his friend and the entire class. Compliments have a compounding effect; before long, on the playground I noticed several of my students making an effort to include others in their play.
One compliment doesn’t change the world, however. Our work is never complete. These practices must be repeated and continued over and over again, until the behavior becomes automatic instead of intentioned.