My room theme this year is “Field of Dreams,” because a) I’m a Mets nut and b) I want my kids to defy any naysayer that comes their way. I hope to accomplish this by surrounding them with positive vibes, both written and spoken, that empower them to take risks and believe in themselves.
To that end, we have started each day this year by reading the poster that hangs on our door. The first day, kids didn’t really know what it meant. So we talked about the image – how the baseball player is leaping for the ball even though he can get hurt or miss – and related that to sometimes having to do things that are scary or difficult.
And now, “Dare to try,” along with “You matter,” “shining star,” and “Field of dreams,” are becoming hallmark words in our room. Yesterday afternoon, when we returned to the room from lunch, one of my boys said, “Hey, Mr. Ray! We forgot to read ‘Dare to try’ this morning.” I laughed and responded, “Actually, buddy, you were late to school today!” We did read it, in fact, but how cool is that this beaming 8-year old had this on his mind so much so that he felt the need to call out his teacher for it? Love it! (And I hope if one day we do forget to read it, that he calls me out again!)
The more poignant story, though, comes from Monday afternoon. It was such a gorgeous day, I decided to surprise the kids by bringing our read aloud outside. We read Heartprints and talked about the meaning of this abstract term. After we finished, I hoped each student would like to hold my big tissue and construction paper heart and share a way they could leave a heartprint that day. It started off slowly, as these types of on the spot activities tend to, but soon enough, kids were sharing ways they could be kind to others.
There was one girl, however, who absolutely refused to speak when it was her turn. She held the heart, smiled, looked at me, smiled, looked at me, smiled. Wouldn’t speak. I was trying to encourage her, saying, “It’s okay. You know me. You know the kids. We’re all friends. We’re a family.” She was having none of it. Well, I was getting antsy, because, even though I am working on giving kids the time they need, I also need to be sensitive to the school’s expectations of staying on schedule.
So, I was getting ready to throw in the towel on this particular occasion, when from the other side of the circle, I heard another super shy girl say loud enough for all of us to hear, “Come on! Dare to try!” Then the boy sitting next to me said it, too. “Yeah! Dare to try!” Before I knew it, the whole class was in a chant replete with slapping their knees: “Dare to try! Dare to try! Dare to try!”
In a perfect story, the quiet young lady would have looked from me to the heart, around to her classmates, back to the heart, and stood up to shout with great pride her awesome idea for kindness. Only at this point, she wasn’t particularly moved.
STILL, I was so proud that the kids were encouraging her (a heartprint in itself). They are beginning to understand how we’re going to do things and how we are going to spread the love. For this particular girl, the seed is now planted. The message is clear.
In our Field of Dreams, we get each other’s backs. We support each other. We cheer for each other. And we dare to try together.