I am agnostic when it comes to weather. I acknowledge that it exists. But I don’t favor any one season. Some people like winter, some like summer. Each season offers unique rewards. I experience weather, but I have no great affinity for one climate over another.
Recently we had that first really chilly day of the year—that day when summer turns to fall. My mother always loved this day. She would hug me and tell me how excited she was that it wasn’t warm anymore. She disliked summer because it’s hot—perhaps because she grew up without air conditioning. My mother didn’t like to sweat. Me, I barely notice the weather. I enjoyed the fact that my mom bundled me up in a cozy sweatshirt to go out and play, but if she hadn’t done so, I probably would’ve gone outside in shorts and a tee shirt and played with my friends until it got dark.
The thing is, if my mother didn’t tell me, I would’ve never known she preferred fall to summer. Because my mother never complained about anything. I guess, like most little kids, I actually thought my mother made the weather. If she dressed me in shorts, then it’d be warm. If she made me wear a coat, then she must’ve decided it would be cold outside. Of course, this wasn’t true. We cannot control the weather, we can only control how we respond to it.
What’s the point? Two things:
- We must teach our kids to approach life the way my mom did. We cannot determine what will happen to us in life, but we get to decide how we will respond. It can be sunny, it can be rainy, it can be snowy, but we decide how we will respond. Are you going to complain, or are you going to put on your coat and get out there and play?
- I was wrong about my mom. She did not actually cause the weather. But do you know when adults do create the weather? When they are teachers, in a classroom. As educators we make the weather in our schools and our classrooms. We need to build resilient kids who are strong enough to handle adversity and success in equal measure. But we also need to realize that we create conditions in which the kids in our school live every day. If we’re sarcastic, cold or grumpy, then our classroom climate will be threatening. If we’re inviting, warm and smiling, then kids will know our classrooms are safe places to try new things and learn from their mistakes.
We cannot control the weather, but there are so many things that educators do control. It’s about intentionality. Everything we do as educators should be done with intention, not because that’s the way we were taught, not because it’s what feels right, or what’s easy for us; we must always act in ways that create safe conditions for learning to take place and build the resilience of our kids.
How do you do create favorable learning conditions in your classroom or school? How are you intentional?
Donald Gately, Ed.D., serves as the principal of Jericho Middle School in Jericho, NY. He was the 2016 New York Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @donald_gately and visit his blog In the Middle of Learning.