I was very fortunate to have Todd Whitaker as a professor in my principal licensure program and as my university supervisor during my principal intern year. Dr. Whitaker frequently reminded us that great principals and great teachers knew what to ignore or overlook. He explained that great teachers and principals have the ability to ignore trivial disturbances and have the ability to address issues of importance without escalating the situation.
In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall discuss these issues in a similar manner, but they encapsulate them in a single word: grace. Grace isn’t a natural response, but it is sometimes the best response. How can we apply grace in a classroom? Souers and Hall provide the following list (p.178):
- Give students a second (or third or fourth) chance
- Engage in some dialogue to determine what the students need
- Offer compassion when students are hurting
- Refuse to be offended
- Listen – truly listen
- Identify student strengths and compliment them
- Thank them for the helpful things they have done
- Spend a few extra minutes asking how they are and offering help
- Model grace so others may follow your lead
Grace doesn’t mean that students are not held accountable for their behaviors. Students are to be held accountable. Grace is the wisdom to know when. Think about your own experience and about the times when you were shown grace. Let those thoughts guide you as you prepare for next week.