Dear CiteHR friends,
Long one, but thought putting because it is worth reading........
W.A.T.C.H. -- Watch What?
The greatest lessons of life often come from small bundles called "children"
I took a deep breath as I walked through the door.
It was the very first class that I had ever officially been assigned to teach, and not even my own classroom -I was just fulfilling duties as a substitute teacher for the day.
Fresh from graduating with a Bachelor's in Education, I was ready to conquer the world with my passion for "teaching".
Reality had not dawned on me as to how different teaching an actual group of students would be.until I strode into the fragile old classroom.
The setting was a forty-year old inner-city school tucked away near government run housing. Drug dealers, high school dropouts, single-family homes, and gangs were the norm in this neighborhood. It was a third grade class comprised mainly of Iranian, Polish, First Nation and English students.
As I soon found out, they were a tough and aggressive bunch, eachmarking out their territory as soon as they set foot on school premisesevery morning. I also realized that most of the students were more underdressed and undernourished than in an average educational institution.
The day began disastrously at the sound of the early bell. My book taught
methods of class lessons and discipline fell on deaf ears and blank stares -
there was no effect in teaching lessons or keeping peace.
The techniques were not captivating and after two tense moments of an all out class mutiny my attempts to gain respect and teach the class were useless.
Since I was only supposed to substitute for one day, I tried to focus on classroom
management, especially not disturbing the surrounding classes in my attempts
to maintain order.
At the end of the day, I was mentally drained, in dire need of throat lozenges, and relieved to be safe at home.
Then, the phone call came. The substitute school district dispatch service
informed me that I would be working in the same class for the entire week!
As my hands began to sweat with anxiety, I inquired if all was well. The
dispatch informed me that the teacher had an emergency in the family and
would miss the last week of school before Christmas.
I was then told that the other teacher who shared my class (teaching her own class on the otherside of the curtained wall) had appreciated my control of the class and had asked for me again.
Bizarre - while I thought all was lost with this group of kids, someone else
with more experience thought differently. It is all a matter of perspective -
"There is who you think you are; who others think you are; who you really
That evening, I sat down on my bed and sifted through the happenings of the
day in my mind. I attempted to recall images of my own childhood. What did I
experience as a child? What affected and impressed me at that tender age?
The answers soon flooded my thoughts. Though my childhood was balanced and
fondly memorable, I vividly recalled attending two inner-city schools,similar to this school, and I remembered what made me happy during those cold school days.
The next morning, the streets were blanketed with snow and the temperature
had chilled further. I arrived at school twenty minutes early, turned on the class lights, and opened the outside door. I let the light embrace the lifeless dark stairway and waited to see what would happen. As it was in my childhood, the response was no different with these children.
Soon, they began multiplying outside the door, peering into the warmth. They were cold, curious and wanted shelter from the winds. "Hey -can we come in?!!!" one
child called out. I joyfully looked up, gave a few instructions and soon the
room was filled with tiny little bodies from my class and other classes.
They were playing checkers, blocks, and busying themselves on the blackboard
as I prepared for class. This was a good start but I needed to ensure this positive atmosphere during class as well.
I sat contemplating at my desk and asking for Divine inspiration. How can I
set a precedent of discipline in my class?
I knew I was asking for a lot especially since all the techniques I had learnt in my Methods courses inUniversity had failed the day before. But I was confident that somethingwould unfold.
At 8:45 , the school bell rang and everyone rushed to their home rooms. I asked the students if they wanted to stay in at recess and lunch also. Everyone shouted "yes" with excitement. They happily cleaned and tidied up and soon settled down in their desks.
And then it happened. As I walked up to the front of the class, the following dialogue ensued that has since become my classroom motto for my entire teaching career.
Teacher : How many of you know what this is (holding up my wrist watch)
Student : That's a clock
Teacher : You mean I can place that big clock on my wrist? (pointing to the
big classroom clock on the wall)
Student : No man.that's a watch
Teacher : Watch what?
Student : Huh? What do you mean?
Teacher : You said "watch" so what should I watch?
Navreen : This teacher is trippin' (is crazy)
Teacher : Well, let's think about it. The word "watch" has two meanings. Can
anyone tell me one meaning?
Student : One is what you're wearing. It tells you the time.
Teacher : And the other meaning?
Navreen : Well, it's "looking" at something.
Teacher : Excellent
I wrote down the word on the chalkboard
Teacher : You know, this word is actually telling you what to "watch". Does
anyone know what the "W" stands for?
Students respond with silence.
Teacher : Well, "W" stands for WORDS (and I wrote out the word beside the
W). How can you watch your words? You can't see anything coming out of your
mouth. It is air. How can you "watch" your words?
Student : You hear it.
Teacher : You mean others hear it. Do you actually hear your own words?
Students respond with confused stares.
Teacher : Let's take an example. Erik over here decides he doesn't like
Katie and he walks up to her and tells her. She hears the roughness of his
words. What will she do?
Student : Probably punch him (the class laughed and clapped)
Teacher : So punching is the next word. Erik does not hear his own words but
waits for Katie's response. "A" stands for ACTIONS. Katie is driven by the
words to act out.
So, words have power, don't they?
What if I told you all early this morning that I wasn't going to let you inside and that I was going to watch you standing there shivering in the cold. What would you have done?
Student : Man, I would've either thrown a snowball at you or broken a window
Teacher : Exactly. You would have been upset by my uncaring words and would
have acted out of emotion.
Most of the time, we don't hear our own words. We only see the reaction of the words from others around us. Our tongue has great power.
Once the words leave it, they can never be retrieved. So,WATCHing our WORDS and ACTIONS is very important. What is it that makes us say certain WORDS or do certain ACTIONS? It's the next letter and here's a hint (tapping the side of my head)
Student : THOUGHTS!!!
Teacher : That's right! THOUGHTS dictate how we will speak and act. For example, imagine for a moment that Brandi was walking back from the teacher's desk and tripped on Imran's foot. Tell me what you would do Brandi.
Brandi: (extremely silent)
Navreen : She'd probably get up and hit him!
Teacher : What if Imran was getting up to sharpen his pencil and the whole
incident was an accident?
Navreen : Then it would be different
Teacher: Okay. Let's think about this for a moment. If Brandi immediately thought negatively, then she would act in a negative manner. If Brandi immediately thought positively, she would ask Imran what happened and be forgiving, right?
Student : right!
They were getting it now and all 31 pairs of eyes were on me as we plodded
Teacher : So, who knows what "C" stands for?
Students respond with some guesses.
Teacher : How many of you enjoy reading books or hearing stories? (Lots of
hands in the air).
All right. Then tell me, how do you know which of the people or animals in the story you begin to like or dislike as you read the story?
Student : By how they behave
Teacher : Yes! Their behavior makes them a good or bad "CHARACTER"!
Everyone was now engrossed with this lesson.
Teacher : So, what kind of character are you? Are you a helpful person, a
kind person, a thoughtful person, a forgiving person : what CHARACTER are
you so that if one day someone wrote a book about you, they could accurately
describe you? I have only been in this class for one day and if I had to write about you based on what I saw yesterday, could I write that you are an appreciative, rude, silent, conscientious, lazy or kind person?
The students were silent and actually thinking.
Navreen : then what's "H" about?
I took a deep breath because I wasn't sure how to appropriately describe any
of this until now - what was I supposed to say about "H" to these children?
I didn't know. So, at that very moment, I closed my eyes and asked for
further Divine intervention and this is what came out of my mouth.
Teacher : Imagine for a moment that you are standing on a busy road in the
middle of the city. You are really happy to be out on this sunny day looking
at things in your neighborhood. Across the street, you notice some Chinese
people in front of a restaurant.
To your right, you see a grocery store with a few Italians who are busily stacking vegetables.
Some Mongolians are coming out of a coffee shop a few feet away from the grocery store. Some people are feeding the birds by the streetlight. Everyone is doing their ownbusiness just enjoying themselves.
You also notice an African mother holding her daughter's hand : they are just about to cross the street. Without any indication, a speeding car turns around the corner and begins racing toward the intersection. It swerves dangerously and suddenly hits the little girl crossing the street.
There is silence in the class. Not a word is said but the eyes speak volumes
as I continue to remain silent.
Student : Mr. S, is the girl all right?
Teacher : Before I tell you the rest of the story, I want you to think about
what you just felt deep inside right now (touching my heart). Just like you,
all those people, the Chinese, Italians, Mongolians and the rest of the
crowd will immediately stop what they are doing and their hearts will reach
out to the little girl.
Their tongues may not speak the same language but it does not matter!
"There is only One Language, the Language of the Heart!"
Everyone's heart, just like yours, races out to the girl because they understand her pain at that instant. Words cannot express, only the Heart can understand."H" is for Heart. WATCH how your heart reacts to things happening around you. Be kind and considerate. If you don't have anything good to say, keep quiet. Think about the other person's Heart also.
That was it. The students understood and I learned a valuable life lesson that day. WATCH became the classroom motto. For Art class, instead of the regular lesson, they asked if they could do big posters on the word WATCH.
The students started sharing the word with their friends from other classrooms at recess.
During that week, this rambunctious class transformed into an open class willing to learn. The air in the class changed because everyone was aware of how powerful the word was.
These 9-year old children had internalized the power of the word and respected its newly found definition in a matter of minutes! In fact, all the designs on WATCH done in Art class were pinned up on every wall.
On that day, I knew that my prayers had been answered. I never saw those children again after that week and went on to teach in my own classroom in several schools.
However, what I learned in that class was more powerful and profound in the way it touched the entire group.
This was a monumental lesson that became the cornerstone of my discipline technique in all my classes over the next several years.
At the beginning of every school year with all my classes, regardless of age, WATCH is the very first lesson presented. Teachers loved and implemented it in their own classes and my students always remembered.
Students adhered to it, personalized it, and WATCH was referred to during many discussion topics of tough issues like family problems, conflicts with friends, doing the right action. In fact, at many retreats, workshops and seminars, this would be the first topic I was asked about.
Today, I have met many parents who use this technique at home to create a better balance inhow they interact with their children. Since the word is commonly used to
"see or is the object to tell time from," it becomes a common expression with a powerful meaning.
Years later, I stopped by the same school where my teaching career began. It
was after 3pm and the halls were quiet. As I was walking through the last corridor toward the office, I heard a voice
"Hey mister!! How are you? Remember me?"
I was staring into the eyes of a beaming young lady and she looked to be in grade 7. I jogged my memory but I couldn't recall who she was. It had been years since I last set foot in that particular school and I was now older, balder and fatter. May be this girl was thinking of someone else?
"Doesn't matter - I still know you. I forgot your name but I know you," she said with a smile, walking away with her heavy school texts in her hand. I watched her go by the exit doors. I still couldn't recollect who she was.
Then she stopped and said with a grin, "Don't forget, always WATCH!" It was Navreen. After so many years, she remembered what was important.
Bala 27th September 2005 From India, Madras