- We give our students many things but the greatest gifts we can give are our love and our heart.
- Give students a piece of our heart by giving them a visual reminder as a gift.
- Put your heart into what you do and share your love with students. There can be a lasting impact.
- Speak life through the words you choose to say. Uplift others with your words of kindness, gratitude, and empathy. Words matter so choose them mindfully and with intention.
What do we have to give students? We give our commitment, dedication, and time. We share our knowledge, experiences, and stories. Among other things, we give inspiration, hope, and our belief in them. But the two greatest gifts we can give are our love and a piece of our heart.
The longer I teach, the more I understand that the relationship I build and grow with them each and every day is the single most important thing that makes the greatest impact. Why? Because it is what lasts a lifetime, and it is my greatest legacy that I leave with them. This is one of my most favorite quotes by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
A Gift on the First Day: A Piece of My Heart
Last year in September 2020 was the first time I gave students a small gift on their first day of school. It was a small wooden cutout of the word “welcome.” I shared with them how this word meant a lot to me and how I want them to feel welcome in my class every single day. I didn’t think much of this after that but on more than one occasion, the mother of a child with special needs in my class made reference to this gift on the first day he met me.
This small token and visual reminder meant something to him. It made him feel welcomed. It was the beginning of a special bond with him because it usually took him a long time to form new relationships. With me, it was from day one. Over the course of the year, when students either lost theirs or it broke, they would come to ask for a new one. This told me it meant something to them.
At the beginning of this school year, we spend a week with students from our previous year. I love this time with them to reconnect and share stories again before they are separated to go to new classes. Before they left, I gave them my speech about how I will forever be their teacher. They can come to me anytime for the rest of my life or theirs. As a parting gift, I gave them a piece of my heart.
Over the summer, I lovingly painted hearts on so many rocks and glass beads. I often think about what it is that I have to give. So I always go back to the same things: my love and my heart.
Put Your Heart into Everything
I was so humbled and honored to write a chapter in Because of a Teacher written and curated by George Couros. My chapter is called Leading and Learning with HEART. I share the advice I would give to myself as a first-year teacher.
Every interaction is an opportunity to uplift
Today’s best is what you have to give
Give the gift of your heart but keep your boundaries of work and home life clear.
This year, students presented their Life in a Bag. Quite a few students put these heart glass beads in their bag. It was the most heartwarming thing to hear students share why this was so special to them.
Sometimes, we just don’t realize our impact.
Last week, a couple of students that I taught the year before came to my classroom at the end of the day. They asked if they could have another one of these heart glass beads because one of them lost theirs. Wow! I had no idea these still meant something to them! I felt pleasantly surprised, and my heart was tickled with warmth.
Sometimes, we just don’t realize our impact.
I know that it wasn’t just the heart glass bead as a physical item. It was a representation of what we cultivated—a loving and caring relationship. In every atomic interaction, I truly believe that it is an opportunity to intentionally uplift others with our kindness, gratitude, and empathy.
I don’t just offer my heart, I demonstrate my love for students on a daily basis through every atomic interaction. I greet each child with a big smile and say their name every morning. There is a morning message each day on the board to greet them. Every day, I remind them that they are loved. I tell them that I love them. I actually say, “I love you.” Saying this to students has made such an impactful difference in our classroom community. They need to hear it as much as we need to hear it from others. How do you feel when someone says, “I love you?”
Love Reflected Back
How is that reflected back at me? This past week, I had to stay home because I twisted my knee. Each day, I received numerous emails from students. So many of them made me feel so missed, so cared for, and so loved.
I have modeled that it’s okay for their teacher to love them and tell them they are loved. In return, they practice sharing their love with someone who deeply cares for them. There’s a reciprocal and mutual feeling shared. When you share love, you feel good and they feel good. When they share their love with you, both feel good. These feelings go a long way in our mental and emotional well-being.
I am blessed to still keep in contact with students from my first year of teaching 23 years ago. I may not have exactly known what I was doing but I know I gave them my love and my heart. They may not remember the lessons I taught but have affirmed how they still feel about me as their grade two teacher. What a lasting gift of relationship to enjoy to this day!
Why This is Important
Taken from casel.org:
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”
The key to teaching is relationships, relationships, and relationships. We hear this often. SEL needs to be embedded in all that we do. For me, teaching is all about relationships. I daresay the curriculum comes second.
I want my students to know they are loved, feel they are loved, and see that they are all loved. We work so hard to build and grow relationships with kids. Every atomic interaction is part of building the foundation of your relationship. With one single negative interaction, it can tear apart a collection of positive interactions you’ve worked hard on for weeks or months.
We cannot underestimate the impact of having positive teacher-student relationships. When children feel loved, they often feel safe. Their emotional state makes a difference in how well they learn. They learn better when they feel loved, safe and secure, and happy. All of these things lead to an increased ability to self-regulate, maintain supportive relationships, and ultimately make responsible and caring decisions.[scroll down to keep reading]
One of my favorite songs is Speak Life by TobyMac. The words to the song mean so much to me because it highlights the importance and impact of our words.
Well, it’s crazy to imagine,
Words from our lips as the arms of compassion,
Mountains crumble with every syllable.
Hope can live or die.
Lift your head a little higher,
Spread the love like fire,
Hope will fall like rain,
When you speak life with the words you say.
Raise your thoughts a little higher,
Use your words to inspire,
Joy will fall like rain,
When you speak life with the things you say.
I am inspired daily to make positive and impactful atomic interactions.
This standard I hold myself to is also in line with one of the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz:
Be impeccable with your word.
I teach this to my students too. There are many ways to say the same thing. Choose your words carefully, mindfully, and with great intention.
At the end of the day, the more I love and show my students love, the more I feel loved right back. Every day we spend together is a joy-filled day. Our time together fills our buckets. The best form of self-care is love and kindness to others because you get it right back!
How can you uplift others by being impeccable with your words? How do you show others you love and care for them?
Give the gift of love.
Make an imprint on their heart.
Make an impact in their lives by sharing a piece of your heart.