Helping people to help people.

With three classes of paragraphs to grade, here I sit in my living room cutting posters from what feels like miles of laminated paper for an event on Saturday. Why? It’s important to practice helping people to help people.

Today (well, now yesterday, as this didn’t post when I wanted it to) was one of the first days that I’ve felt that I truly made a different. I truly feel like I helped. In the majority of my classes, I served as a reader of a story, an animated narrator whose purpose was to entertain, to perplex, and to shine light on how being a kind soul can spark an incredible amount of change. During group reading today, I reminded students that they can work with me if they so choose. To my surprise, at least three students per class asked me to accompany them on their journeys through chapters 15 and 16. And there, at the blue tables with the elementary chairs, is where our journeys began. At the end of each class, these explorers smiled and thanked me as if I had introduced them to something they had never seen before. What a gratifying smile.

Study skills is a time for reinforcement, and I claimed that right today by pulling some of my reading companions to continue the journey. By the end of the period, seven students were glued to their novels as we danced our way through the frustrations and realizations of the narrator. When I had passed the torch to another reader, it had occurred to me that my one spark of helpfulness had begun to spread. One of my most difficult students (who had actually asked to come back for extra help) voluntarily reached across the table to help redirect a fellow student by point to where we were in the novel. My third period “chatty Cathy” made sure to sush the surrounding students so the reader, whoever it was at the time, could be heard. One positive act had one again sparked the ripple effect. As a teacher, I’m in the business of helping people. It’s my job, and it’s one of the many reasons why I’m able to drag myself outside to the parking lot in the morning after 4hrs of sleep, burnt coffee, no breakfast, straightener burns, and the worst of them all: the struggle to find an outfit. I love helping my students, and I love being viewed as help. The most rewarding part of it all, though, is that ripple effect – watching how one positive act can lead to another and another and another.

It has inevitably become the job of the educator to educate (shocking, right?) our students to become the best students in school and the best people they can be out of school. For my dear, non-education related friends, we do so by practicing and preaching character education. My first class novel surrounds the topic of bullying in middle school and has questioned my students on how we treat others. To do my part, I’m in the process of running a district-wide anti-bullying walk to promote a positive school environment. By helping my students to understand how their actions affect others, they are able to help others see the light and potentally the error of their ways. We’re helping people to help people. It’s a beautiful thing when you think about it.

“Helping and being helped” is a learning community propensity as established by Putnam and Burke in that awkwardly shaped clunker of a textbook that I, truthfully, never actually read. Learning to help isn’t something you can read in a textbook or take notes on from a powerpoint; it’s something you experience. Each day, we have the opportunity to help someone else. To hold the door open for the person behind you. To buy your friend a coffee because you know they’re having a rough morning. To spend an extra minute or two explaining something so the other person understands. To smile at a stranger. We always have the opportunity to help, and by helping, we are establishing an environment in which helping becomes the norm. Like those two cronies in that silly textbook have reinforced, we are shaping our environment in a way that emphasizes, not ostracizes, the act of helping someone else without any personal gain.

I need a latte after this tangent.
Continue to shine, teachers, and continue to cause positive ripples wherever you go.
-Ms. S. 
“s” for sunshine, “s” for swag, “s” for sorry her coffee is empty.

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