Grace in Action
by Brooke Schulte Olivieri
Look back to your favorite teacher. Chances are that they taught with grace. They were kind and calm, yet intriguing and motivating. They calmed your soul and you knew you were an accepted member of their class. They respected you, and they expected respect in return. You looked forward to coming to their class because you knew they valued class time and were prepared with something new and important to learn. You wouldn’t necessarily label them the “nice” teacher—they were “outstanding.” They made you learn, and did so with grace. They made it look easy. Everyone in the class essentially did what they were supposed to and without a fight. They did so out of respect for this teacher. Everyone knew what was expected and knew they would be held accountable if they gave anything less than their best. Your favorite teacher most likely exemplified “Grace in Action.
Calmness is the neutralizing effect that we need to exercise in order to counteract all of the negative energies that we experience from our students, their parents, and sometimes even our coworkers. Calmness is portrayed through our tone of voice, facial expressions (especially our eyes), posture and gestures. When we are able to remain calm under tense circumstances, we maintain the power.
Calmness is soothing to students. Even the best of students will not like you or your class if you do not display a sense of calm. If one gets riled up and stressed it can result in barking commands at students. For some it occurs on very bad days, for others it occurs often in sensory numbing micromanagement of their students. We’ve all heard it at some point through the halls… “Stand up! Walk forward! Stop! Tuck in your shirt John! Now you Lisa! Stop taking Rudy and Jin!” Teachers can get tense just being in the halls near such a class. Imagine how the students must feel. Constant harsh voices can be jarring to a student’s spirit and body. Having to listen to this all day long must be like torture.
In contrast, there are other teachers who have the smoothest, calmest voice. One of best examples of this was Mrs. Celestine Campbell. Her presence exuded calm from anyone. Her children and their parents absolutely loved her and still do. She was given some of our school’s most challenging cases because she had the “Power of Calm.” Even the angriest child calmed to her loving soothing voice, caring words and warm hugs. All children deserve to learn in a calm class, free of anxiety.
Masters of the “Dance.” To exemplify “Grace in Action” teachers also need to be masters of the “dance.” To “dance” is to love what you are doing and to do it with ease and grace. Parents prefer that their child is in an experienced teacher’s classroom, because they will have the dance down pat. There will be structure, routines, rules, and consequences. Yet everything will be done with ease and lack of negative emotion. Lessons will be taught with their child’s self-esteem intact. Lessons will be learned and all children—no matter their challenge–will be held accountable both for their learning and for their actions. Teachers who excel at the “dance” make the whole process fun and enjoyable—making it seem as if no one was even working—even though they were working harder than ever. Mastering the dance of teaching takes work and commitment, but is worth every effort.
With all that we balance, when you put twenty-five at-risk students into the mix—all with their own challenges and personalities, you need nerves of steel, de-escalation techniques like a pro, the patience of an angel, and the instructional delivery and presence of a reverend at a revival. This seems like a lot, but it is expected. We aren’t allowed to show weakness, and we can never lose our cool. Teachers are literally expected to be inhuman with our balancing act. Balance is the basis of our professionalism. Whether or not we like it, it is our professional responsibility and we need to do what it takes to make sure it is there. You may have to make choices of what you can or can’t do, or what you will or won’t do. Whatever you do, keep your cool. It is all in the balance.
Main Points from “Grace in Action”
- When you are able to remain calm under tense circumstances, you maintain the power.
- All children deserve to learn in a calm class, free of anxiety.
- Teachers who excel at the “dance” make the whole process fun and enjoyable—making it seem as if no one was even working—even though they were working harder than ever.
Title I teachers need nerves of steel, de-escalation techniques like a pro, the patience of an angel, and the instructional delivery and presence of a reverend at a revival.
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