(255) The Heart of the Matter


These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
…People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age
The trust and self-assurance that can lead to happiness
They’re the very things we kill, I guess
Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
And the work I put between us,
Doesn’t keep me warm  (Don Henley)

Today I was flipping through my Facebook news feed, and saw a quote from Bernie Sanders about how he has no intention of attacking anyone — he wants to discuss the issues. I have been following this constant mantra of his, and I have got to admit, it has my heart.

Today was the first day I connected this to what is happening in my classroom this year.

Coming into this year, I had vowed my primary focus this year would be on interdependence — connecting my students to each other and to the teachers in the room in a way to support learning for all. This shows up easily in my advanced 8th grade class — a few reminders, a few class builders,and we are on our way. It has not been as easy with my 7th grade general education classes, where a selection of students are mocking, disrespectful, and are your average garden variety middle grades show-offs.

It is easy to want to give up on my focus. Some days frustration mounts, and I am tempted to fall back on bad habits to get control.  But I have become a believer in “sticking with the issues.” It takes constant diligence and focus on my part to keep coming back to our class motto: We are all partners in the learning process.

More and more I’m sticking to ways that get my students up and moving, as well as thinking in new and creative ways. More and more I will not allow put downs from others to keep my students from taking a risk in trying something new. As we practice class building in one of the classes, it is obvious to me over and over again that we are far from where we need to be. I have probably already recited a thousand times, “This is a listening activity. Look and listen to who is speaking.”

I refuse to give up.

Like Henley says in the lyrics above, “We all need a little tenderness/How can love survive in such a graceless age.” Many of my students simply do not know how to be supportive, tender, and caring on a consistent basis. If no one insists they do it, they won’t.

Just like some politicians do not know how to stand on their own clear principles and stick with what is important. The world around us is full of failing examples of leadership. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  For every failing example, there are ten wonderful examples. We just have to look. And that requires wanting to look.

The heart of the matter is what is in our hearts. And until we are in touch with that, nothing will change.

Heartfelt version of “Heart of the Matter”


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