In a world that is founded on cause and effect, and choices and consequences, I recently questioned if there is room for grace in the villages known as our schools. In every school and in every neighborhood, in every family and in every space that humans occupy, there is a child (or five) that struggle with impulse control, and in most cases, due to no fault of their own. There are scholars with all kinds of initials, acronyms, abbreviations, and labels assigned to them, and spaces designed and designated for just them. And at times, it seems that those initials, and accompanying behaviors are all that people are able to see.
As humans with our own goals, agendas, and desired outcomes, the hesitation to teach these children is understandable. However, as educators we have a responsibility to every child we touch, whether it’s in the hall, in the cafeteria, or in the classroom. It is our duty to not only educate the next generation, but equip them with the confidence, resilience, and the problem-solving capability to navigate the world beyond our school walls. In order to do this effectively, we need to operate in the gift of grace.
What exactly does that look like? It means not penalizing children for things that are beyond their control, but instead helping them to discover ways to channel their energy positively. It means giving them a clean slate every single, solitary time you encounter them. It means assuming the best, even if your last experience with them was the worst. It means giving them an opportunity to express themselves freely, and being a safe space for them. It means empowering them, encouraging them, and explaining to them the systems that they may not always fully understand versus using those systems to control them, and exert power over them. It means accepting them unconditionally, believing in their ability, and meeting them where they are developmentally.
Two of my scholars, who struggle with impulsivity have presented challenges to other teachers, and in my space they are successful a lot. They’re given an opportunity to figure out what works for them. They are able to be expressive. They are able to be creative, and they are able to be themselves. I do give them redirections, but I do it with clarity, love, and intentionality, because it’s what they need and it’s what they deserve. I have seen those same two scholars hanging in the halls from time to time, trying to escape whatever is going on in their classroom. It is my desire to create a space where scholars are not plotting to escape, but begging to stay. Because in that space, they are not villainized, penalized, or despised because they don’t fit into the idea a teacher may have of an ideal student. I want my space to be a place where they receive the gift of grace.
Author Tiffany Lezama