Can we change the fate of our students with our optimism? I think we can.
Look what optimism did for the pig, Wilbur in the book, Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte contrived a simple plan to save her best friend, Wilbur. She wrote optimistic messages in her web hoping that sending out these good vibes would help others see the wonderfulness of him. It worked. In just a few days, Wilbur went from having a terrible fate to becoming a celebrity.
“Ever since the spider had befriended him, he had done his best to live up to his reputation. When Charlotte’s web said SOME PIG, Wilbur had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur had tried to look terrific. And now that the web said RADIANT, he did everything possible to make himself glow.” Charlotte’s Web pg. 114
In my book, Self-Directed Writers I talk about the qualities that students/teachers need in order to be self-directed. One of these qualities is optimism. When we teach in an optimistic manner, our students will try to live up to to how we already see them. I spent a lot of time in September working with K-1 teachers and kids on launching the Writing Workshop. One of the most common lessons I do in these early months is moving kids from writing on one piece of paper to making books. Truthfully, it’s one of the easiest and most fun lessons I do. I begin the lesson by showing kids a few books and how the writer writes his book across many pages, putting the first part of his book on the first page, second part of the book on the second page and so on. I then tell that they are going to make their own books. Towards the end of the lesson, I have them talk to a partner and decide if their book is 2 pages, 3 pages or 4 pages. Of course we have the child who says it’s 400 pages and I tell him/her to start with 4 and then take more paper if he/she needs it. At times, I have the child who says 1. Usually, I’ll point out that the books in their classroom are all more than one page and to take 2 pages to be on the safe side. Then, the kids happily go back and draw their pictures and/or write their words to the books.
Many teachers reflected that their biggest obstacle in this lesson was actually believing that their students could do this. Just as optimism changed Wilbur’s fate, our optimism can do wonders for our students. The problem is, we won’t feel optimistic all of the time. Can you become a more optimistic teacher? What can you do when you don’t feel optimistic? I would love to hear you thoughts. Scroll down to the bottom and leave a comment to start a conversation or shoot me an email and let me know your thoughts.