Transitioning from my Reporter role at the Oakdale Leader was necessary in my life for a number of reasons. The one most at the core were my children. I knew I needed to work full-time. I knew I needed to stay local, but I desperately needed flexibility.
The job I currently hold with our paper allows me flexibility manageable around the job needs, as well as my family’s. No ‘events’ that I must attend for purposes of reporting. It’s a true gift to be able to juggle both and ‘flex’ my time between my two jobs (as mom and Circulation Manager).
One of my most favorite flexibilities is the ability to work in the classrooms of my children’s school. My mom worked full-time when I was young and was a ‘commuter’ so seeing her face in the classroom was a luxury I was not afforded. My Aunt would fill in for field trips whenever possible, which always brought me much pride.
I came to really embrace and love this role last year when working in my son’s First Grade class. I was the lucky mom asked to work Fridays, which meant checking homework folders and reviewing word lists.
It did not take long before I could identify the children who more than likely lacked parental involvement with their homework packets and word lists. My heart hurt for these kids, as many of them I could see just desperately wanted to learn.
Each week I would do my best to give them high fives, compliment them on their progress or share something (however small) to try and put empowerment in each of their days.
Empowering adjectives, that’s what I like to call them. They’re simply found, cost nothing and do amazing things for one’s spirit.
In first grade I can remember exclaiming to some students, “You’re reading!! You’re a reader, which you know then means YOU are a Rock Star!”
Sure, to some it seems silly. To my son, it may have been a bit embarrassing. The smile and light, however, in the eyes of those children told me different. I don’t know their stories, nor did I need to. None of us excel at all that we do. It is often the kind words of a friend, a family member or a virtual stranger that carry us to dig deeper and realize our own potential.
Last week I was reminded again of the power of language and how the simplest of words can bring one to the place they so desperately wish to be.
It was my day to spend time in my son’s second grade class. My job assignment was to work with the students who were a bit behind on a few assignments.
Prior to being met by the last student, the teacher advised me that he sometimes struggles with focus. Apparently he has some days better than others in the way of focus and you just never know. I myself, personally struggle with this in my own work day, so I was more than happy to do what I could for this child.
As he worked on his vocab, I could see I was losing him. We were only on the second word and I refused to let him off that easy. Redirecting him to the fifth word on the list, I saw the light bulb come on. Before I knew it he returned to the second word without hesitation. As he did, I quickly high fived him and simply stated, ‘You’re a genius!’
One simple sentence, three harmless words and this child excelled. As he sat straighter, so too did I. That vocab list had nothing on him and Ms. Hammond, we conquered it … together.
That day as I left the elementary school campus of my children I could not help but wonder. What if we made empowering adjectives a conscious part of our everyday parenting? Many of you may already do this. Personally, I try ... yet as the mom some days it’s harder than others. Children like to test parents, adults; who are we kidding, they like to test anyone they can.
Ultimately my thought on this is pretty simple. I would much rather have a child remember me as the mom who once called them genius, than the one who publicly proclaimed them to be a trouble maker.
Pretty simple stuff, now to just make it so.
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.