You Do Not Get to Decide What Someone Remembers
"Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression." -Haim Ginott
Recently I was at a local business networking meeting, while my friend, John, was sharing, he said this:,
"Oh, I have a wife- I just am not wearing my ring because I took it off while I was playing guitar. I am sensitive to that because someone, one time, said something to me about it, and now it's just something weird I feel I need to mention."
A small comment said, in passing, to my friend, lodged itself in his memory and here he was, talking about it at a networking meeting- where people probably wouldn't notice that his ring was missing. That got me thinking...we do not get to control what sticks to another person.
In 2006, I was 22, and I was responsible for 18 four-year-olds. It was my first time being the H.B.I.C. and found myself quickly learning the "right way" and "wrong way" to get the children to listen and stop crying! Oh man...when I look back at those years I am filled with joy seeing how amazing those children are today. These children are high school juniors and I keep in contact with about 5 of them on a regular base, which fills me with happiness. There were so many fun days shared together.
I remember walking my class to a local coffee shop one morning and buying everyone hot cocoa, just because! I remember my co-teacher would read a chapter of "The Magic Tree House" to the children each day before lunch. That year, I received the most sweetest gift from a student named Luke, along with a gift he was saving because he wanted me to go out to dinner "somewhere fancy". I also remember learning so many awesome life lessons as an adult myself.
Flash forward 8 years, and I was teaching at a new school with 16 four-year-olds. During the summer, the school invited teen volunteers into the program to help and earn hours! I was thrilled to have two of my past students, Maya and Maddie, join in my classroom. It was magic. They volunteered with me for three summers in a row. The new class always thought it was funny to learn that I was their preschool teacher and now they are in high school! I always loved having them inside my classroom because they are like family.
It wasn't until one day that one of the teens, Maya, shared a shocking memory she had. It is not a terrible memory, just one that reminded me of how far I had come with my years of learning and trying.
(Before her memory, I want to offer a bit of backstory here: If you have ever been in a classroom by yourself trying to get 18 children to rest you can appreciate anxiety can run high during those times. Nap time ratio drops to half so you can be alone with more children "because they are asleep"- more on that in a different blog for another day. All I'm trying to say, is that it is a HIGH STRESS time for most. Nap is not very fun.)
So, Maya shared that it was nap time, and it was a classmates birthday and I told Maya that if she didn't take a nap she couldn't have a cupcake. So she pretended to sleep the entire time because she wanted to the cupcake. But she wasn't really asleep.
When she shared this memory- my heart sank. I don't remember saying that. I don't remember this exact moment, but it really didn't matter because Maya did remember. I immediately apologized and said that I should have never of said that. My face turned red and I felt really embarrassed, because that is not something I would say now. I have learned more effective tools to use. Mistakes will happen, words will be said that might hurt feelings, actions may cause pain- the magic is learning how to apologize, learn, and move forward in connection.
I am grateful that Maya shared with me her feelings about that day and that I was able to take accountability for how I handled the situation years before. I also gave myself a mental high five for learning new tools that help me with the tough moments. I am now able to be remembered in a way that I'm proud of, and that meant staying present/calm/connected in the tough moments!
Haim Ginott began teaching early childhood aged children in 1947, he was a pioneer in the field. His theories, quotes, studies, books, and over all human philosophy really inspires me. I studied his work after a conference I went to and fell deeply in love with his legacy. He changed the script for me and taught me that anger is not a helpful tool while trying to teach someone something new. Which when you're working with children happens just about every minute of everyday!