We’ve had Dr. Lori Desautels share with us before about the importance of asking questions in the classroom, and today we have the privilege of giving away TWO of her new books, How May I Serve You? Revelations in Education. Lori is an educational guru who helps teachers with Teach for America. To enter the giveaway, simply make sure you are a subscriber to our weekly newsletter. If you already are, no need to do anything. We’ll draw on Friday, March 23rd and notify the winners via email. You can enter your email address on either sidebar.
Enjoy the following excerpt from Lori’s book:
“Teachers change lives! For better or worse, their presence with students affects change. School environments, administrative policies, and content expertise do not hold a candle to the gentle “personal philosophy” that radiates from teachers who create connections and relationships with their students.
We can ill afford not to begin with this philosophy of compassionate presence, because the research is exploding with findings and studies that the brain is wired for relationships, and that positive emotion and optimism, coupled with feelings of self-worth and success, initiate motivation and drive learning, retention and retrieval of knowledge to new heights. The desire to feel successful deepens learning and is the emotional prerequisite for applicable intelligence and a process for happiness, intimately addressing the emotional and social aspects of education.
Today as I desired nothing more than to write the final words of this manuscript, I received an invitation from a graduate student who asked me to have a sushi lunch and talk about our school years. As the green tea was poured, she looked at me, hesitated and said, “Lori, it has been a tough few weeks, and I want to tell you what has happened.” Candace squirmed a bit, played with her chopsticks, and then began to share this story.
Javier became my student in mid-November after being kicked out of his large high school for absences. It did not take long for me to understand the reason Javier was absent so much from his previous school—he was reading at a fourth grade level and had already been retained three times in his life, making him 16 years old in the 9th grade. Javier avoided school because he did not feel successful, but that changed once we started working together. Javier began to come to school regularly, worked hard in school without any behavior problems, and even happily attended Saturday tutoring to get additional help. Although Javier showed tremendous progress with me and an intense desire to learn, his progress was not fast enough for my school principal, who decided immediately after winter break that it was time for Javier to find a new school. The school I worked at had just opened, and my principal was concerned that Javier would bring our End-Of-Course Assessment scores down.
I did not fully understand the resoluteness of my principal’s words until four weeks later, when my principal suspended Javier for three days for wearing black shoes instead of the required white, on an afternoon when I was out of the building. Upon returning to school, I learned of the incident and was extremely upset since the typical punishment for dress code violations was an after-school detention. When I inquired about this unusual disciplinary action, my principal again reiterated that it was time for Javier to find a new school.
Javier and his mother were required to meet with the principal prior to his being allowed back into school after his three-day suspension. Javier’s mother asked me to come with them to the meeting because I had established a strong and trusting relationship with the family. While being forced to wait for thirty minutes before the principal would meet with us, the three of us watched as five children walked through the office wearing black shoes!
Once the meeting began, my principal opened the meeting by telling Javier how far behind he was academically compared to his peers and that it was time for him to find a new school. Javier and his mother explained that this was the school they wanted, so my principal shifted back to the issue of the black shoes. Javier explained that he and his mother had been evicted the day he was suspended and had been homeless for the past three days. His mother would not have enough money to purchase him shoes for two weeks, so he wondered if he could wear the black shoes until that time. My principal forcefully said, “No. He needs to have the shoes today or he is being kicked out.” I offered to purchase Javier a pair of white shoes in order for him to remain at school, but his mother turned to me and said in Spanish, “It is not about the shoes. The principal no longer wants my son here. It is time for us to find a new place to go.” With those words, Javier was gone from school and my life.
Statistically, there is little chance now for Javier to ever graduate from high school. He is currently homeless, Latino, speaks English as a second language, has been raised in a single-parent home, and has been retained already three times in his life. With such ease, my principal traded Javier’s future for one less “fail” on the standardized test at the end of the year. As a teacher, this experience makes me wonder what the goal of education has become. When I chose education as a career, it was to work with the tough cases like Javier in order to change my students’ life trajectories, not to allow them to become another sad statistic.
-Shared by Candace Kissinger , ESL Teacher, Indianapolis, IN
Following Candace’s story, I just sat there. I couldn’t find any words to describe how I was feeling, or more honestly, what Javier and his mother must have experienced and felt. I share this story because no matter the grade level, age or gathered experiences from teachers and students, educators must embrace and integrate the emotional standard of compassion, extending to our parents and students the power of “feeling felt.” Compassion is defined as “a combination of feeling for someone else, experiencing the suffering and a positive move to reduce the suffering of others.” Are we truly compassionate with one another? Do we extend to one another even a small invitation to see and express what is possible and all that is going well? As parents and educators, we must begin to implement this emotional support that drives all that we are and do in and out of school.”
- Revelation in Education, Lori DeSaultes, PhD
* Remember, several copies of Lori’s book are being given away this week to all weekly newsletter subscribers! Good luck and have a great week, ya’ll! Thoughts on Javier’s story? Share them in the comment section. -Laura Parker, Editor, Teacher and Blogger from aLifeOverseas