Watch What You’re Teaching

No matter who you are,
somebody’s learning from you.
– Kid President

Dear Celebrities,

We haven’t been formally introduced; I’m Kyla. I’m a kindergarten teacher at an elementary school in a small town. I’ve been meaning to write a little something to you but honestly, I just haven’t had the time. #99problems, right?

I spend each work day with 19 5- and 6-year olds. Contrary to popular opinion, kindergarten isn’t about nap time and finger painting. Yes, we teach ABCs and 123s, but more importantly, kindergarten sets the foundation of a child’s education. I’ve spent my entire adult life working with children for a few reasons, the biggest being that I believe in the importance of what I do. In addition to teaching kids how to read, write, and essential foundational math skills, I teach my students about character. I’ve built reading lessons around valuing kindness, spent hours teaching students how to express their feelings in non-destructive ways, and have done my best to instill the values of integrity and respect into each of my students.

Here’s the thing: you, dear celebrities, are making my job harder.

Now, it’s clearly not all of you. It’s not even the majority of you. I’m fairly certain I could google dozens upon dozens of names of celebrities and not immediately be linked to articles depicting that person’s latest destructive shenanigan. For those of you who don’t feature on my Facebook newsfeed or CNN’s front page for negative behaviors, thank you. Seriously.

But the problem is that some of you have figured out that if you have enough money and enough people know your name, you can be immune to the rules, whether they’re laws or just rules of general common decency.

Today I read two articles that disturbed me. The first discussed how Ray Rice could be reinstated in the NFL in a matter of weeks. You remember Ray Rice. The man who was videotaped delivering a knock-out punch to his then-fiancee? Were he just an ordinary person, he would have been arrested and charged with battery. But he’s famous, so that didn’t happen. That’s old news though. How about Joseph Randle, the Dallas Cowboys running back who just became a spokesman for MeUndies – after he attempted to shoplift underwear last week? Yes. Underwear. The article reports that he makes roughly $500,000. Public record will show you that my annual salary is $35,345. Never once have I debated pocketing a package of panties and scooting out Target’s front door. If I did, I’m positive I’d be waiting arraignment, not profiting from a decision to break the law. He already makes more than 14 times my annual salary. And now he’ll make even more.

I’m sorry, can I just have a second to freak out? 14 times my annual salary. 14 times!! I mean, I’m a teacher so I didn’t take my job for the great pay, but seriously. Come on. Buy your own underwear.

Let’s shift focus though, because I could very easily get stuck here and I really did intend for this to be a short letter. I know you’re busy and I am too.

I understand and value the 1st Amendment. I mean, it’s what allows me to write this letter to you. You also have the right to express yourself, and boy-howdy have some of you taken that right seriously! I mean, Miley Cyrus really went for it at the VMAs a few years ago. You could argue that it’s a parent’s job to censor what their child is exposed to, and you’d be right. But what am I supposed to tell a parent whose child has heard the first line of Jason Derulo’s song “Wiggle” belted across the kindergarten playground for the 3rd time in as many weeks? Just as you cannot control who hears your music, I cannot control who repeats it.

How, then, am I to teach my students that respect, integrity, and kindness are crucial values when they have so many examples to the contrary not only readily available to see, but that the people who make these choices are often rewarded for their bad behaviors?

There’s a lesson that I teach my kindergarteners that I think pretty much everyone needs to learn (sometimes, myself included). It’s really quite simple: you are not the most important person in the world; other people matter too. Oh, celebrities, if you truly understood how much my tiny, innocent kindergarteners looked up to you! I am not asking you to change who you are, I’m asking you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

You reproduce who you are. Be worth reproducing.

Love,
Kyla

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10 Quick Things

Over the past 2 months I have written at least ten blog posts in my head. Some of them were at moments when I was angry, like when I read Facebook status #68 in my news feed that claimed all teachers were monsters who care only about implementing standards at the expense of student learning and using highly-inappropriate curriculum because they don’t care about their students (ok, so I embellished that one a little, but seriously, it was almost that bad). Some of them grew out of moments of gratitude for the little tiny things that happen and some from a deep-seeded desire to change the world for the better. None of them made it out of my head, though, because it isn’t the right time for them, especially the ones on teaching. One day I’ll be able to compose my thoughts about Common Core and education and present them in a way that won’t get me fired from my job or make national news. And for now, Kid President has a decent grasp on changing the world for the better. So instead, here are ten things I’ve learned over the course of 29 years.

  • The fastest way to feel good about yourself is to do something good for someone else and not seek anything from them in return.
  • The most important things you do probably won’t be big. In fact, most of them will likely seem tiny and innocuous. And almost all of them will be things done for other people.
  • You are responsible for the choices you make and the consequences that come along with those choices, whether they’re immediate or happen 10 years from now.
  • Mistakes are only good if you actually learn something from them.
  • There are things that you won’t want to do because they require time and/or effort. Do them anyway.
  • Expecting a person to meet all of your needs isn’t fair to that person. That isn’t the job of your best friend or boyfriend or spouse and the more pressure you put on them to be your everything, the more quickly your relationship will deteriorate.
  • What comes out of your mouth really is what’s in your heart.
  • Life is better when you choose to be kind, regardless of other people’s decisions.
  • If you let it, the one bad moment of your day will destroy the memories of the 35 good moments.
  • True strength is shown when you’re vulnerable and transparent with the right people.