The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Let It Go

It was inevitable. At some point in the year, the hit song from the hit movie was going to become a theme in my classroom. I was talking with a colleague who teaches first grade about this earlier today and we both agreed that all students need to learn how to let go of things that have happened in the past, stop the “he said/she said” reporting, and allow one another to grow. Then my principal and I were talking about some issues with “drama” in the fourth grade and the same concept arose: we need to teach students to learn how to let go of the past, to stop holding grudges, to “forgive and forget” and to allow everyone to start over. As if that wasn’t enough, I just read this wonderful post from a teacher I admire greatly, even though we’ve never met, and I found myself thinking about this theme once again.

Let it go.

It is that simple. Just let it go.

Let it go.

Someone in the class finds your pencil on the floor and picks it up. You realise it is yours. Let it go. I have plenty of others available. And if it happens to be a special pencil that your grandpa gave you as a family heirloom, quietly, calmly talk to that classmate and say, “Hey, I don’t know if you realise this, but that is my pencil that my grandpa gave me. Can I have it back please? Thank you!” That is so much better than yelling, “Hey, you thief! That is my pencil and you stole it! If you don’t give it back right now, I’m gonna beat you up after school!”

Let it go.

Your best friend got mad at you and told another friend that she was mad and then they were both mad at you. And it turns out that it was for something you didn’t even realise you had done. Or maybe it was something you had done on purpose because you were upset with something she had done before. Both of you. All of you, now that others are involved: Talk it out, forgive one another, and allow each other to start over.

Let it go.

You were lining up for lunch and someone cut in front of you. You are both getting the same thing for lunch but still, they cut. You don’t think it is fair. Your teacher didn’t notice because he was busy helping another student who just tripped over a shoelace while lining up. Is it that big of a deal that the student who cut is going to get a slice of pepperoni pizza before you get your slice of pepperoni pizza? Probably not.

Let it go.

I remember having a conversation with several students a few months ago about the difference between things that are a big deal and things that are not a big deal. We even made a list. Big deals are things like a family member or friend dying, a tornado or earthquake, getting really sick and throwing up all over the place, cutting yourself so badly that the bone is exposed, or having someone steal a personal possession. No-big-deals are things like someone taking your yellow pencil, someone stepping on your heel on accident, someone saying that they want to play kickball when you want to swing. Do we know the difference between big deals and little deals? Do we know when to recognise that a pattern of someone doing little things to annoy are becoming a big deal because it is intentional, consistent, and meant to push buttons? Do we communicate to others when they are pushing our buttons, or do we know how to stop ourselves, take a few deep breaths, and walk away to avoid letting the little things become big things?

Do we know when to just let it go?

As a teacher, I need to know all of this, too. I need to recognise the patterns. I need to try to find out why. I need to make sure my students know that they can trust me to do the right thing. I need parents to trust me, too. I need my colleagues and my principal to trust me. And I need to trust myself. I also need to know when someone is just having a bad day.

My job isn’t to punish. It isn’t to be cruel, or mean, or unfair. My job is to teach. Not just academic subjects like multiplication, division, fractions, and geometry or reading or writing or history or science. My job is also to teach my students how to navigate the social climate in which they live, to develop the social-emotional skills necessary to be healthy, happy, and productive. I just finished a graduate course on social-emotional learning and school adjustment and have been spending a lot of time thinking about how these skills directly relate to academic success. When my students make mistakes, when I make mistakes, we ask why, we make a plan to forgive, to start over, and to let it go.

Life’s too short to hold grudges anyway. As so many of my students are so found of saying:

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2 responses

  1. Very inspiring! The other day there was some issue in the class. I was so upset when I found (thought) some girls cheating in spite of repeated sermons on the need to be honest. Later they made it clear they didn’t do it – but the evidences were all against them. I decided to believe and forgive. It made me feel better – at least they are bothered.
    I appreciate your dedication when it is just a tough job for the majority. Best wishes!

    May 12, 2014 at 4:50 am

  2. Pingback: Learning To Let Go |

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