I have a saying I like to remember in my classroom. I remind myself of this every week. I try to remember it every day. I've even written about. Obviously, it's something I think is important, and not just for me. I think it's important for everyone. What is the saying? Notice the unnoticed. Notice the kids in my classroom who have flown below the radar their whole lives. Be curious about them. Learn their story. I still believe this firmly in my heart. But an Instagram post by a young woman challenged me. Here's what she said:
"We've heard the quote about the flower that doesn't think of competing with the flowers next to it, it just blooms, right? I saw these flowers on a hike and I initially thought to myself, 'Huh, I think I'll see brighter ones.' Then that quote hit me ...I stopped and went back to take a picture of the little blooms because they don't care if they aren't the brightest or tallest or biggest flower..."
There was more, but this was the gist of it. A gist that got me thinking about my own "flowers" in my life. My students. Most of them have long ago given up any pretense of being the brightest or most creative or best student. They see themselves with too many limitations and not enough potential. Most are realistic to a fault about their academic progress and left the comparison game in their past.
But have we as teachers? Do we mentally compare them to others? Should we compare them? I don't believe so. Most of their teachers in the past have probably subjected their students to this killer. Killer?? Yes, killer. Comparisons kill kids. Instead of accepting themselves and loving themselves, students have a hard time doing this if their teacher is consciously or unconsciously leveling them up against others in the class. Instead of focusing on the negative, let's be like my friend Kristen. Let's notice the unnoticed. Let's not overlook our students in the hopes of finding the bright ones in our classroom. Let's treat all of our students as individuals. When we begin to accept them as individuals and not try to make them into someone they're not, growth can occur for them and us.
Instead of comparing, let's build up their confidence. Let them be happy with who they are--maybe not the brightest or tallest, but one who has a beautiful bloom nonetheless. As teachers, let's not overlook the positives each student brings to the table. If we look, we'll find it. And the more we comment on their strengths and build confidence, the taller they'll stand and the prouder of themselves they'll be. Don't kill their confidence with comparisons, build it with recognizing them for the unique individuals they are.
This fall we're going to have classrooms full of flowers Let's notice all the flowers and appreciate them for who they are. Let's remember to notice the unnoticed and not to compare. Let's foster confidence in our students so they can be like flowers--content with who they are. It could make all the difference.