I had a school-mare last night. I woke up at 3:30 in a sweat, heart pounding, body shooting up straight out of bed. It was my first school-related nightmare (aka “school-mare”) of the year!
Generally, my school-mares have to do with waking up at 8:07 (or thereabouts) knowing the kids are arriving at 8:10. Or, I might dream that I was observed on a day when I was totally unprepared for myself or my students, let alone my administrators.
This particular school-mare was quite unique.
It was the first day of school, and the principal was making the rounds, seeing how the classrooms had shaped up and making sure everyone was on the ball. In the school-mare, my kids and I were discussing our various Field of Dreams concepts, including “Dare to Try” and “You Matter.” They were into it, and good vibes were pulsating from my orange bulletin board to my blue one and everywhere in between.
Only when the principal arrived, she was none too pleased. She ripped the orange backing paper off the board and tore the “Dare to Try” sign off the door, leaving it to flutter unceremoniously to the ground. She stormed out but voiced her distaste later that day in both an announcement AND an e-mail, in which her message was essentially, “There should be no decorations in classrooms of teams that have lost 50 games in a row to the Washington Nationals!” (Wow, I had really touched a nerve with my community building and positiveness!)
It was at this point, having been exposed and mocked in the e-mail, that I woke myself up, relieved to realize I was in a school-mare, and not my school. So at 3:30 AM, I found myself stumbling through the dark and considering how I would respond if ever confronted with why my room is decked in Mets stuff and why I chose to focus so heavily on the words “Dare to try.” It is fairly evident why I would use a Mets motif in the room, but here is what I would say if asked about why “Dare to try” means so much to our class this year:
In my experience as a teacher, I have been at many times surprised and saddened by students’ lack of confidence, their diminished value of self-worth, their inability to take a leap of faith due to not believing in themselves. So, school-mare principal, when my students read and say those words, I am hoping they begin to internalize them. I am hoping they inspire them to believe. I am hoping they motivate them to give it a shot when previously they wouldn’t.
“How does this relate to the curriculum?” you ask? Well, in the most literal sense, I guess it doesn’t. Except for the fact that when kids believe in themselves, they believe in what they can accomplish. For those kids reading two years behind grade level, it might be the ticket they need to be better readers. For those kids who still can’t add without their fingers on their face, it might be the ticket they need to try other methods of addition. For those kids who would rather sit in a dentist’s chair than in the share chair in the meeting area, it might just be the ticket they need to gain a smidgen of confidence.
I’m so glad this was only a school-mare. Were this scenario in the real world, my kids would never have a chance. But I am empowered to empower them. They do have a chance, and one of the most important elements of their success is them believing that success can in fact be theirs.