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The Power Is In You

We Can Be the "Miracles"
In Our Students' Lives


The other morning I arrived at school very early to get a jump on the day. I set up my classroom and began to check my email. I was in the middle of responding to an email when one of my kindergarten students walked in.

Mariah came right over to me to give me my daily hug, and to get hers in return. As I looked into her eyes I could tell something wasn't right.

"What's wrong, honey?" I asked her.

Mariah went on to share with me that she sleeps in a bed with her little sister, and that her sister "wets the bed, and it gets on me, Mr. Ashby."

I gave Mariah another hug and made arrangements with the nurse to get her cleaned up.

With Mariah in good hands, I went back to my classroom to give her mother a positive phone call. Mother explained to me that she had just gotten a better paying job, but she had to be at work an hour earlier than before. That meant there was a new schedule in the morning, and that was requiring some adjustments. Things were getting on track, she assured me.


That afternoon, I went out and purchased some clothes to keep in the nurses' office for times when Mariah might show up at school with it on her.

Did I have to do that? As her teacher, are Mariah's problems my problems? My response to both those questions is a big Yes! because I love my children very much. When you love a child, and when you love what you do, you will do anything to meet that child's needs.

"You can only be great at something you love."
-- Maya Angelou

That day, with Mariah's needs on my mind, I found myself drawn to thinking about Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.
  • A human being's first need, according to Maslow, is physiological: we must have clothing, food, water, and other essentials.
  • Our second need is a sense of safety and security.
  • And the third level of need is a sense of belonging.

    I had to take care of Mariah's needs because I had to assure her that she is cared for and that she is an important part of our kindergarten family. We EduCarers do things like that because we are constantly focused on building positive relationships with our children. If a child's basic needs are not being met, that child cannot and will not be able to focus on learning.


    [content block] Later that very same day, one of my first-grade colleagues approached me after dismissal time. She shared a concern about one her students, Kareen, who was in my kindergarten classroom last year. The child had missed a few days of school, and she had seemed a bit withdrawn and unable to focus since coming back. My colleague, who is an outstanding EduCarer, had just finished preparing a packet of work that Kareen had missed so her mother might pick it up the next morning. Perfect! I thought. I had a great relationship with the mother, so I volunteered to try to catch up with her the next day to see if I might learn anything that would be helpful.

    When I bumped into Kareen's mother that next day, she revealed that the water had been turned off in their home and they were temporarily living with a grandparent. The water would be back on soon so they would return home, the mother told me. I told her we could help if there was a problem. We could refer her to our parent involvement specialist or a school social worker, or I could help out with the water bill myself. I did everything I could to reassure the mother, and I asked her to let me know how things turned out.

    As Kareen's mother left my room, I thought about the little girl and how challenging -- and devastating -- the past few weeks must have been for her. Can you imagine living without water? Having to move to a different house? Witnessing your mother under all that stress?


    From time to time I end my workshop presentations by showing this video of Whitney Houston's song "Miracle". I always preface the viewing by sharing a few thoughts about how we EduCarers make a difference in our students' lives. With every single thing we do and say to our students -- from the way we greet them at the door to the way we praise their accomplishments -- we are in a position to make a difference in their lives. We are in a position to be the difference in their lives.

    The "Miracle" video shows some wonderful examples of caring people reaching out to others. Its message -- and the message I want to leave with my workshop participants -- is that Yes, we teach children, but we also understand that there will be times when we must be the "miracle" in their lives.

    Teaching is a challenging field, but we EduCarers know that teaching is more than a profession; it is a calling. We have been called to teach. It is that calling, and our understanding of our purpose, that empowers us to be the difference in the lives of the children we teach. And sometimes "making a difference" means going the extra mile to meet our children's needs.

    The Power Is in You!

    Carlton Ashby can be emailed at [email protected].

    Article by Carlton Ashby Education World®
    Copyright © 2008 Education World

    Article posted 10/28/2008