Sadly, We Remember the Bad Stuff Teachers Said and Did When We Were Young

  1. We need to reflect on the games we play with children and how and what they message. Some children’s games have become so commonplace that we play them without reflection. I’d ask readers to ponder the games they played and the messaging (both positive and negative). I recently played Hangman and as I did I kept thinking: Really? We hang people who don’t get the answers right and pick the right letters? What message is that?
  2. I think we need to work with students at all ages and stages to show them how one seemingley small bad act or one bad incident involving a teacher or faculty — can be overcome. No, it will not be forgotten but being upset for decades suggests the hurt was not fully processed. And no, I am not talking about sexual abuse or harassment or other negative activities that truly cross the line. Those are incidents and harms of a different magnitude. And, for the record, I have several seemingly small incidents of teacher behavior that sit my own memory bank some six decades after they occurred. Yes, Mrs. P, I still remember you calling me repeatedly a “worry wort.”
  3. We need to be reminded, as educators, that even small incidents or ways we speak to or handle students have an impact and that that impact can endure. We unintentionally can inflict harm that turns into memories that students carry with them. Yes, it would be good if educators apologized — that might help the processing. Yes, we need to help kids see there is more good than bad. But, as teachers and professors we need to get a handle on the impact we have — it is enduring. Coaches too.
  4. Finally, we need to appreciate the role of fun and laughter in learning. The motto of the newest Lady Lucy book (my children’s book series) is Laugh2Learn. Not a bad message. Sure, parts of learning are hard. Taking risks involved with learning are hard. Failing to meet expectations is hard. But, there is joy and laughter in learning. And for the naysayers out there, there is a literature that supports the fact that laughter and humor open the brain pathways to increased learning and memory and creativity. No joke.

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Karen Gross

Karen Gross

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Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor