Nearly five years ago, in Beijing, I held the hand of my son for four days. A twin, he was born lifeless after a series of mistakes by doctors at the most reputable and expensive hospital in the city.
As I sat with him and listened to the beeps of the life support machine, I felt that he gave me three messages about life. Tragically, he will never be able to put them into practice himself, but I will certainly try. I will also try and apply them to the way I teach and the way I work in school.
Freddy’s three messages were:
Listen to your gut instincts
Both my wife and I had a gut feeling something would go wrong with the delivery in Beijing. We both knew she should fly to Bangkok, but we ignored those thoughts and feelings for practical reasons.
Every day we are presented with situations in which our gut instincts can be felt very strongly. It is vital that we don’t lose our ability to sense them, listen to them and act upon them. As teachers, these instincts can make the difference between someone who simply does the job and someone who has a significant impact on young minds and lives.
Teaching is an art form, it is a talent, and gut instincts are a crucial factor in knowing what kids need at any given moment. You just don’t get that in your training, in the curriculum or at any PD.
Keep friends and family close
There is an increasing trend these days to move away and seek a better life somewhere else. For international school teachers like myself, this can be an unending quest. Our families are far away and our friendships often temporary. Facebook and Skype are not the right way to interact with the people who are important to you. A screen does not, and will never, replace being physically close.
As teachers, we must ensure that our students learn how to develop friendships and value their family. We must also help them to grow up as people who communicate face-to-face, who interact physically and who understand that social media is not actual life. They need to learn how to use social media the same way we used to use an address book, as a tool that brings you together in reality.
Don’t talk badly about other people
Such a difficult one. It is amazing how easy it can be to spend time talking about other people. It is also amazing how many bonds are formed by this negative habit.
Gossip and back-stabbing are an integral part of life in schools, something about them breeds it. In some schools it can become a real culture of trying to make yourself look good by making other people look bad. Of course, I am talking about the teachers not the students! However, it is an awful thing for children to be surrounded by, don’t you think?
It is much better to decide not to talk badly about other people, or at least to try not to. When you’re next sitting in the staffroom listening to people slag someone off… get up and walk away. Or, even better, tell them you’re not prepared to be part of it.
This is a massively important lesson for kids too. Helping them identify, deal with and avoid gossip could be an extremely empowering element to your teaching.
Naturally, my success at living up to these ideals varies as each year progresses. However, I do believe that I can improve my life and my ability to do my job if I can make them happen. I also believe I am not alone, which is why I’m sharing them.