Miss T, here!
“You do YOU”
This is the phrase I scribbled onto the school pavement at Sherwood Elementary each September.
Every year, on the first day of school, a handful of teachers and I would go out onto the school grounds, where we would greet our new students and write out inspirational messages before they arrived. ‘You do YOU’ became my ritual to signal the start of a new school year.
Heck yeah, it’s a catchy phrase! But to me, it’s much more than that…
It was my wish for our whole school community. For them to embrace who they are, and all of the differences that make them, them.
And I meant it, truly. With my whole heart…
All I ever wanted for my kiddos was for them to be themselves- to allow their uniqueness and individuality to shine brightly!
You do you – be your truest, most authentic self.
I think this message is extremely important for kids these days (also an important thing for us to keep in mind). It’s easy to get lost in a crowd and to conform to the actions of others around us, but that is not allowing us to be who we really are.
This is one of the biggest challenges I faced while working within the typical school system…
More often than not, school focuses too much on improving weaknesses instead of capitalizing on strengths. They try to squeeze each individual kid into the same exact box as the other kids around them – expecting them to all learn the same way, behave the same way, think the same way…
I’ve seen it happen. Even teachers who care and have wonderful intentions are not given the environment, curriculum, or resources they need in order to help their students see real success.
And you know, our kids see it as well. They may even be more observant than some of the adults around them…
…Because observation is how they are wired to learn.
And they observe so well. They take what they see from the classroom and apply it even on their own – in the playground or during after school activities.
And because we focus so much effort on improving weaknesses and lacking skills, kids begin to notice other kids are lacking certain skills and they create their own boxes that they believe their friends should fit into.
Kids conform, not just to our educational standards, but even to meet the standards of their peers.
It’s been a tough thing to watch over the years. Children not being their authentic selves just to “fit in”…
And while it’s still important to be constantly improving and setting goals for ourselves and our kids, SOLELY FOCUSING ON WEAKNESSES does not allow individuality to thrive.
Instead, we expect all of our students to reach all the same benchmarks, as if they are all the same anyways. And come from the same backgrounds and share similar experiences.
This is just not the case.
Every child (and adult- because lets be real here for a moment, we were all children once too) has a unique background. They come with different types of baggage from their different life experiences. And as a result, they’ve acquired different sets of strengths and weaknesses than the other children around them.
And so I wonder, who are we to decide that their individual life experiences aren’t good enough learning grounds for their future?
Instead of working hard to make up for what skills they lack, can we not embrace their strength and their interests in order to mold a successful child?
By not enhancing our kids’ strengths, we aren’t allowing them to reach their fullest unique potential. I believe it’s a wasted opportunity!
As an educator, we have good intentions. We get into this field to help kids succeed and because we care. But I believe that intention gets side swiped by all of the targets that educators are forced to complete by the end of each school year. Teachers have certain topics to teach and grades to mark and so these targets tend to be the priority.
It is by no means a teacher’s fault. They have a LOT on their plates. Many shoes to fill and many hats to wear. (I applaud all of you!)
This is when we need to take a look at our current system and ask:
“Is this working? How can we make it better?”
This school system is an old model of thinking that needs to be revisited. We are training our kids to be and do the same. We are training them the same way we’d train individuals to work in a factory during the industrial revolution.
But the reality of the world has changed! And so, our school systems need to change.
We need to focus more on fostering the skills, experiences and interests of our children. Letting their unique identity guide the way to their own education.
We need to embrace their strengths, to foster curiosity and growth.
Imagine what the world would look like, and our school grounds would look like if we all embraced the “you do YOU” philosophy… Educators, parents and kids alike!
I see a beautifully different world, filled with so much uniqueness. A world where people don’t knock down others because of their differences, but instead, lift them up BECAUSE they’re different. A world where differences are strengths and are embraced.
Can you see it too?
I’ll end off with a quick reminder, in case no one has told you yet today…
You just keep on doing YOU!
With love & gratitude,