It was way past bedtime and my daughter, nine years old, could not sleep. She could not stop thinking and talking about something that had happened in school.
A student in her grade level had been picked on by other kids, and my daughter admitted to me that she had laughed along with the joking–and it was eating her up. She didn’t know what to do about it. She couldn’t sleep.
On the one hand, I was so proud that, at nine years old, she understood and cared about the impact of laughing along with the joking. On the other hand, she had made a mistake and couldn’t find the courage (yet) to fix it.
I found myself saying aloud to my daughter something that I often have to repeat to myself. “Courage doesn’t mean doing something big and heroic. It means having the strength to just do the right thing, even when nobody else is.”
It’s so hard.
In school, it’s not just the children who are faced with the challenge of having courage each day. We adults, teachers, find ourselves faced with needing to choose to do the right thing even though no one else is. I think most teachers probably don’t like to admit how often the “crowd,” adult staff, are laughing at kids, talking about kids, succumbing to ineffective or harmful trends in education, or just plain doing the wrong thing.
And it takes courage to stand up to the power of the group.
Courage is my one little word for 2019.
In order to have more courage, I know I need to do a few things. I need to develop a better “BS detector.” I have a colleague who can smell a lame excuse from a mile away, and it’s high time I developed that skill as well.
My tendency toward optimism sometimes means I’m not asking critical questions. I tend to let things slide, gloss over things that are said in order to “keep the peace.” Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to say, this means I’ve heard adults speak about children or their families in hugely problematic ways–and my tendency to believe in their good intentions has meant that I haven’t summoned the courage to call them out (or call them in) on it.
Good intentions, I know, are not enough. It’s time I developed the courage to face into the hard conversations I know I need to have.
As for my daughter. She’s making baby steps. She updates me each day. “Today I did my best to be nice even though it was so hard,” she’ll say–searching my face for a sign that she’s doing the right thing.