Today, I met with multiple students who I worked with a lot last school year. I wanted to reconnect, to see how summer went and to ask about the first few days of school. It was great! I was reminded, as I often am, of the power and importance of meaningful relationships with kids. During my first year of teaching, one of my mentors gave me this “Educator’s Pledge.” For some reason, it’s always stuck with me and I’ve rediscovered it, randomly, over the last 17 years. So, tonight, I share it with you. It’s a good reminder of the power we hold.
“First the Heart, Then the Mind”
An Educator’s Pledge
The requirements of excellence today challenge me to bring a sense of artistry
to my work by building bridges between heads and hearts and making certain
that my heart and soul are engaged in my work with children.
It is said, if I work with my hands, I am a laborer. If I work with my hands and
my heart, I am a craftsman. If I work with my hands, head, and heart and soul,
I am an artist. To inspire a mind, first I must touch a heart.
Before children can learn rigorous content from skilled practitioners, children
need encouragement, someone to talk to, someone to listen and standards to
live by. My relationships with students are the foundation upon which all
learning can occur.
“As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable
or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate
or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a
crisis will be escalated or deescalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”
The power of my interactions is unmatched.
I must do whatever it takes to reach each child. For I make the difference.
I can destroy the heart and mind of one child or many children or I can open hearts
and minds of children and instill a feeling of true worth and human dignity that will
enable a child to surmount the tragedies of poverty, of prejudice, of futility. I need
to go no further than the nearest classroom to find a child already beaten by life,
a child who already feels he is nobody. I can help him feel that he is somebody.
I make a difference.
Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen
nor even touched, but felt in the heart.” I must do the heart work. The world speaks
to children’s minds. But as an educator, I have the powerful opportunity to speak to
the heart. For if I have a child’s heart, I have his mind.