My dad stood in front of the high school football crowd, soaking the ends of my fire baton in gasoline. He gave me the baton. I stretched it out in front of me as my dad lit both ends of my baton. Flames shot up, the music started, and I began my twirling routine. I was about 11 years old at the time. When I completed my portion of the half time show, there were always some people standing around who did not believe that I was twirling real fire. They even yelled it out, "That's not real fire!" This was extremely frustrating to me - the practice and "perfection" it took to do this. Some just refused to believe!
Kids know when we believe in them, and they know when we don't believe in them. Students will work hard for those who believe. In education it is important that we believe in our kids. Kathleen Budge led a workshop, Disrupting Poverty, at the ASCD Empower 19 Conference. If we want to show kids we believe in them, we will consider her suggestions of best practice - number one being building caring relationships with students.
We show our students we believe in them when we do these things (From the Disrupting Poverty presentation):
1. Provide safe schools. (I would add provide safe classrooms.)
2. Ensure a sense of belonging.
3. Hold high expectations for students.
4. Create classroom communities. (My thought - Leaders strive for school community, which is important. But in the "we" movement they also forget how important it is for the teacher to build a classroom community. The classroom is like the family, the school is like extended family.)
5. Engage & empower students.
6. Teach academic discourse.
7. Encourage productive struggle.
I see building caring relationships as the foundation to showing our belief in children.
It hits you hard when others don't believe in you. I remember feeling sad, discouraged, and angry when those people stated that I was not twirling real fire. The flames were started right in front of them, yet they refused to believe. Nothing I said or did could make them believe.
I think about Jesus and his ministry. Some people believed in him - many did not. It must have been so disheartening at times. But Jesus kept right on with his mission - bearing all things. There was so much unbelief shown in such negative ways - mocking, spitting, belittling... even as he was dying on the cross. But Jesus continued with his mission. He believed in his people.
We do not have to go to such great lengths to show children we believe in them. We only have to begin with a caring relationship. We lay a foundation, a belief system that helps children believe they can and will succeed. Our belief helps them to rise above struggles and failures. Our caring supports them in their educational journey and their journey of life. Someone believed, and the children believed too!