I recently heard a story about a soldier who had just returned from a tour in Iraak. He was asked by his local church to share about his experiences in the battlefield. He gave his talk and when he was done, he directed everyone’s attention to the pew where he had been sitting in. He had left his bullet-proof vest laying on the pew for anyone who was curious about what he wore to protect himself.
After the service, people lined up to see this bullet-proof vest and see if there were any signs of combat on it. Somebody had left a magic marker laying near the vest and when the soldier returned from greeting people as they left the church he found his bullet-proof vest covered in magic marker. Upon closer inspection, he realized that people had written prayers and notes of gratitude on his vest until the vest was completely covered in blue ink. He said that those notes gave him the strength to go back into combat knowing that he was loved and that there were people that appreciated his sacrifice and were praying for his protection.
You might not think this story has anything to do with your job or the children you teach. But in fact, it has everything to do with you and the kids you love.
You see, children face an onslaught of bullets on a daily basis :
13.5 million children live in poverty in the United States.
9.3 million children lack health care. 21% of Hispanic children have no insurance in the US.
20% of children ages 3-17 have one or more developmental, learning, or behavioral exceptionalities.
Each year, an estimated 3 million children are reported as suspected victims of child abuse and neglect and referred for investigation.
New Mexico is 47th out of 50 states (50 being the worst) in areas of child homelessness according to the National Center of Family Homelessness. In fact, there are approximately 937 homeless children ages 0-6 who live in Albuquerque. 4,600 students enrolled in the Albuquerque Public Schools District during the 2008-2009 school year were homeless, according to the APS Title 1 Program
Most kids come into our classrooms with backpacks loaded with books and supplies but what we seldom notice is the invisible load they carry on their shoulders on a daily basis. Crises at home, an absent parent, sickness, poverty, homelessness and peer pressure are just a few of the burdens our students carry through the front doors of your school. This not only affects their relationships, but it also impacts their academic achievement.
Sure they have a thick bullet-proof vest to protect themselves against the bullets – they pretend like they are not faced by their parents’ divorce, they act up in class to garner attention, some focus on school work and are the stars in your classroom, but they are still deeply hurting. Some of them experiment with drugs as early as 4 and 5 years of age, turn to violence or simply clock out of life. They fight with everything they’ve got but sometimes the battle gets too intense without encouragement and validation.
If you would, I am asking for you to pick up the magic marker of encouragement and fill that symbolic bullet-proof vest with plenty of encouragement so that the children you teach can withstand their otherwise bleak circumstances and blossom under your leadership.
Courage. Encouragement. Two different words. One origin. The latin root of both words is COR, which is translated HEART into our English language.
Courage means to HAVE heart.
Encouragement actually means to GIVE HEART.
When we encourage others, we literally give them heart – we give them the courage they need to excel. And that is one of the reasons, and yet not the main reason, why you should care about the subject of encouragement in the workplace.
‘WHEN YOU GET ENCOURAGEMENT, DOES IT HELP YOU PERFORM AT A HIGHER LEVEL? (98% SAID YES IN A POLL)
If most of us TODAY say that encouragement helps us perform at a higher level, what makes us think that encouragement would not be effective when it comes to children!?
A word of encouragement can be fuel for success to those who so often run on empty. Yes, you have to correct mistakes that you see; but make more positive deposits in the emotional bank than negative withdrawals.
Contrary to popular opinion, teaching is more than assigning homework, evaluating results, and making appropriate changes. Teaching requires a connection between the teacher and his/her students at the heart level. We must always remember that we do not lead classrooms, we lead children WITH THOUGHTS, OPINIONS AND FEELINGS. And if we are to lead people, we must also care for them.
As teachers, we have been taught to abide by goals and standards as we progress throughout the year. The sad fact I see is that the small steps that kids take to accomplish those goals and standards are not celebrated enough and are disregarded as ‘part of what they need to do to pass the grade.’ When we fail to celebrate those small victories we are sending out a very clear message to our children, ‘Your time and sacrifice do not matter. All we care about are the results.’
We must realize the importance of linking rewards and encouragement to the fulfillment of goals and standards. Encouragement is what keeps kids committed to the goals we set for them!
Stephen Covey paints a clear picture of our responsibility as leaders: ‘Leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.’ (2008)
In their book, Encouraging the Heart, Kouzes and Possner list SEVEN ESSENTIALS OF ENCOURAGING:
- Set clear standards
- Expect the best
- Pay attention
- Personalize Recognition
- Tell the Story
- Celebrate Together
- Set the Example
On my next blog, I will to focus on four of those essentials:
- Set clear standards
- Pay attention
- Personalize recognition
- Celebrate Together (Invest in parties. Get-togethers.)
Come back for more encouragement!!
- Mercy Alarid is the Creative Arts Pastor of Passion Church. Mercy has a Master's degree in Education. Mercy is a member of the faculty of Central New Mexico Community College, where she is an instructor in the Education department. Mercy has been married to Brian for 17 years and they reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico with their 3 children: Chloe, Colin, and Lauren.