Micha Boyett is the writer behind the blog, Mama :: Monk, where she is currently hosting a series every Wednesday called “One Good Phrase“. Guest contributors share phrases that have become mantras in their homes, said over and over again, finding meaning. The entire series—similar to her blog—has been very meaningful and inspiring to me and I feel so blessed to have been asked to write in that space.
During my first few years of teaching, I happened upon a little book called Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year. Among many good tips, Esmé shared a ritual that she did with her students each day before excusing them. It was a “call and response” format where the kids filled in the blanks and went like this:
“See you in the __________ [MORNING!]”
“Watch out for __________ [CARS!]”
Whispered, “Don’t say _____________ [‘shut up’]”
“I love _________ [YOU!]”
As the newbie teacher I read about this idea and realized I had happened upon a little trick of the trade I could start using right away. It was a little daunting to introduce it the first day. Non-failingly, before the peer pressure had subdued the squirrely ten years olds, one kid would scream ‘shut up’ instead of whispering it. Eventually though, it became a marker, a mantra for Room 18 and later, Room 29. Hundreds of fourth graders reciting in unison the lines together everyday at 3:05pm. My favorite realization was how a daily practice began to change their behavior and thinking. If “shut up” was uttered in a moment of frustration during math, the class became dead silent as if a cuss word had been released. Someone would insert the preverbal “OOOOOHHHH, you’re gonna be in TROOOUUUBLE!” and everyone would look at me as to how I’d respond. Even if we’d had a hard day together, despite small group communication trouble or disappointing multiplication timed test results, we always joined together, as a class, and ended our day with “I love…YOU!” Many afternoons, I gritted my teeth through that chant and I’m sure there were students who sarcastically uttered, “I love you”. No matter what, every day for 180 days, August to June, we shared those phrases.
When I first became a parent in 2007, I don’t think I had a clue how my teaching & professional life would impact my parenting.