This I Believe

Kristi - Manlius, New York
Entered on August 16, 2007

I believe that as an educator I have the power to shape the life of children by providing them with positive, memorable experiences. I believe that when I am standing in front of my class I am responsible for treating them with dignity and respect if that is what I expect in return.

As an educator in an impoverished urban area I have had plenty of experience with being disrespected and treated in an undignified manner. There were many times when I wanted to turn and run in the other direction, leave the profession entirely, or enter the witness protection program just to get away from particular children. I thought it was ridiculous that a fourth grader could behave that way and there must be something wrong with their parents to have raised them to be such little monsters.

Then I realized that I had more power than I thought, after all I have produced three well-behaved, happy children that treat people with dignity and respect. I decided that the key to my success in teaching was going to be an expectation that my students treat, me, each other, and their community with dignity and respect. I began using many of my mom tactics on my students and found that even those that seemed to be unreachable were actually very capable of what I expected as long as I followed that golden rule of treating them the way I wanted to be treated.

I believe one of the biggest mistakes adults make is treating children like they don’t deserve respect, rather that they have to earn it. I, on the other hand believe you get what you give, I try as hard as possible to respect them in the manner that I expect to be regarded. I have to say, it is working for me. This past school year was the best I have had since I started eight years ago. I felt for the first time ever, that sadness on the last day of school, I just didn’t want to let them go. I even went as far as to ask my principal to let me loop to the next grade with them. I hope that those students uphold that standard of dignity and respect in fifth grade, all the way through to high school graduation, and into adulthood.

I hear so many people complain about the state of the world. I believe that we need to focus on raising a nation of respectable citizens that treat each other with human dignity. This could be the key to a more peaceful existence.