As I begin another week teaching my kindergarten students, I keep reflecting on a message that my mentor, Dr. Jerome A. Barber, shared from his pulpit one recent Sunday morning. "If we focus on the power that is in us," Dr. Barber said, "we have the ability to face what is placed on us."
As a teacher and "EduCarer," I am constantly thinking about the challenges my students face in their daily lives. My students are exposed to so many negative sights and sounds. I could let that get the best of me or get me down. I could let that stand as an excuse for my students too. But I know that the power is in me, as their teacher, to help my students combat the harsh realities of their world by relating to them, listening to them, and bonding with them.
The "EduCarers"* at my school -- Tarrant Elementary School in Hampton, Virginia -- are always searching for unique ways to connect with our students, ensure they are cared for, counter the negatives in their environment, and give them the tools they need to succeed. That is the power within us. And it was with those goals in mind that we recently developed a student advisory program for our third, fourth, and fifth graders. Each and every one of those students has been assigned an advisor. And every adult in our school -- that's every adult from our custodian to our principal -- is responsible for mentoring three or four students. Mentors encourage their mentees, listen to them, help them face the challenges in their daily lives, and provide positive feedback.
Our students understand the purpose of the advisor program. We shared with them from the start its positive thrust: "You have an advisor just like every college student does, because you are college smart."
In addition to the advisor program, our principal, Donna Warthan, takes time to meet with every third, fourth, and fifth grader. She doesn't just meet with them once a year; she meets with them three times a year. She takes that time to discuss test scores and test-taking strategies. More important, though, those conversations are a way for her to connect with each and every child and to get a sense of how they feel about themselves.
Taking time to talk with every child several times a year Isn't that time consuming? you might ask. Well, yes it is. But our principal is committed to doing that because she recognizes that our students must feel loved and cared for if they are to accomplish the goals we have set for them. If our students don't sense that caring -- if they don't feel good about the school environment and themselves -- we cannot hope to succeed.
Not long ago, I saw a TV interview with Dr. Ben Carson, a renowned neurologist and author of Gifted Hands. "I could have been the poster child for at-risk students," Carson told the interviewer. But, he went on to say, because significant adults in his life encouraged him, he was able to be positive, focus on his talents, and think and dream big.
Carson's story reminded me of another powerful story that Joel Osteen shares in his book, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day. In that story, a young boy accidentally slips down the edge of a mountain as he is hiking with his mentor. With his foot stuck in a wedge of rock, the boy becomes increasingly frustrated as his mentor attempts to aid him.
"Somebody help me!" the boy yells. And he hears a voice yell back: Somebody help me!
"Who are you?" the boy yells to the voice. And the voice yells back: Who are you?
As he becomes more frustrated, the boy yells at the top of his lungs "You're a coward!" And the voice yells back: You're a coward!
"Mr. Walker," the boy explains, "every time I yelled something I would hear a voice yell back to me."
"Young man, that's an echo," Mr. Walker explained with a smile.
"But," Mr. Walker added, "that echo is really life speaking to you."
Mr. Walker went on to explain that what we feel, what we experience, and what we say determines what we get out of situations and what we get out of life.
To help the boy understand, Mr. Walker provided an example.
"You're a champion!" he hollered into space. And, together, the two heard the echo. You're a champion!
"You're a winner!" Mr. Walker hollered. The echo yelled back: You're a winner!
Mr. Walker looked at the young boy. "Do you see what I mean?" he asked. "Do you understand that there is power in your thoughts and words?"
Osteen says that we must "speak life" to our children by expressing the possibilities in life through positive thoughts, words, and relationships.
That's the exact same goal all of the EduCarers at Tarrant Elementary have for our "college smart" students. That's why we strive to create an environment that speaks to each of our students and enables them to think and dream big.
Just as caring adults in Dr. Carson's life did for him.
And just as Mr. Walker did for his young mentee.
By consistently caring for our students, relating to them, and encouraging them -- "speaking life" to them -- we help to ensure their success.
Because that is the power that is in us.
The Power Is in You!
Carlton Ashby can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Rev. Dr. Jerome A. Barber is the originator and founder of EduCarers [EdYouCarers™]. learn more
Article by Carlton Ashby
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