My principal has shared these agreements with us at the beginning of the school year the past few years. Building relationships with students can be so difficult sometimes, and it’s also so easy to get bogged down in the day to day responsibilities of life and school. At times, I feel like I give so much to my students that by the time I get home, my own kids get the leftovers which makes me feel as if I’m failing them in some way. Each of these four agreements applies to all relationships and are something that I try to keep as the centered focus while at work as well as in my life.
Be Impeccable With Your Word
Kids are always listening. They can see right through the fluff. Unfortunately, so many of my students have been talked down to, have heard inappropriate interactions between adults in their lives, and have look to other adults as role models. I try to speak the truth to them while also building a sense of respect and understanding that often times lacks in their lives.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Ugh. This one is SO difficult for me. For sure, hands down, this is the agreement I forget before all others. I do tend to take it personally if a student is disrespectful to me or confrontational. I’ve done this long enough to know that each student is different and each has their own story and background. Trying to meet the needs of 150 kids each and every day can be so challenging. But, just when I feel like I’m struggling to connect, a student comes in a tells me about the “A” they earned on their science test or the goal they scored in their soccer game. I want students to know that my classroom is a place where everyone is respected even if I’m the one who has to teach them what respect looks like.
Side note: Unfortunately, I struggle with this agreement in my life outside of school as well. I think that I’m such an “includer” or make a point to be respectful, that if I feel left out or disrespected, I kind of have to check myself to know that it probably wasn’t intentional even if I am hurt by those actions.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Communication is key. It’s easy to assume what others know about each other or the extent to what each person has been through. Most kids are good expressing what they want or need, but they may not always do it in the best way 😉 Adults are guilty of that too. I can’t assume I know each student’s background or pretend to have gone through what many of them have experienced in their lives, both the good and the bad of it. That’s why providing them with a safe space to communicate is vital.
Always Do Your Best
This is the agreement that I’m the best at implementing. I have enough self-awareness to know that on any given day, I’m just doing the best I can. I’ve often joked that I’m a mom, a wife, and a teacher and each day, I’m probably only succeeding with two of the hats I’m wearing. Something has to give, and sometimes that’s my sanity ;), but I’m always trying my best, and you’ll often hear me say, “I’m just doing the best I can.”
Teaching really is a rewarding profession. It’s also one of the most difficult professions. Most days, I work with multiple types of personalities, hundreds of questions, multiple excuses, students who lack structure and role models in their lives. It can be taxing to be all the things to all of the people, and it’s easy to feel spread thin. I have to remind myself that I’m only one person doing the best I can each day. The Four Agreements help guide me to find some sense of balance, and to continue to keep doing the best I can. The payoff is the student who finally feels comfortable enough to volunteer to read aloud, or the kid who helps the new student in class find his way around the building, or the student who graduated because at school, they were surrounded by teachers, counselors, coaches and principals who were the first to tell them they could achieve their goals.
Also, I have to remind myself to focus on the positive. I can have 140 awesome students only 10 of which are challenging. Or, I can have a really engaging lesson for four of my classes but for some reason it didn’t go as smoothly with one hour. It happens and life goes on.
I know these agreements can apply to everyone no matter where they are in life, so I just thought I’d share. I always like looking at things from a new perspective. 😀
Have a great Monday.