Championing respect

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Breathing Gratitude

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I WAS seated in my desk, working on my laptop while our school principal and academic coordinator were also working on their desks, when little Kiana (not her real name) lugged behind her teacher who came in to our office to talk to me.

We all greeted her a cheery "Good morning!" but she shook her head and refused to greet us back. Her teacher urged her to say a simple "Good morning" but she continued to playfully decline our requests.
This situation could very easily be dismissed and say "that's just the way it is."  Some of us would even say, "How cute!" But here, I saw a teachable moment. 
I stepped out of my desk, walked towards her and got on the floor to meet her at eye level. I held her hands and lovingly but firmly said, "Kiana, we show respect by greeting our teachers back. Could you kindly say, ‘Good morning?’" She shook her head.
When I saw that she wasn't about ready to comply, I knew I needed some time alone with her. I took her outside to a more private area where she and I could talk. The struggle was coming from her being a playfully defiant child as I respectfully confronted her about her behavior. I say "playfully defiant" because she can use her charm in a way that you would forget about her defiance!
So I talked to her about the importance of showing respect towards elders by greeting properly. She said yes when I asked if she understood, but still, she wasn't ready to go in and greet the teachers. I allowed her to take her time until she felt ready to do the right thing.  I knew it was difficult for her because she was struggling. 
She whined and asked me to allow her to go back to her classroom but firmly, I said, “No, not until you have done the right thing.”  So I waited for quite a while, until finally, she said she was ready.
She came in the office and said a very feeble "good morning" to each one of us, shaking each of our hands, as this is the common practice of greeting in school.  I then hugged and applauded her and told her how proud I was of her for showing respect and doing the right thing.
Many times we have very low expectations of our children.  We think that they are not capable of exhibiting certain character traits but with the right guidance and the patience in training them, we will be surprised to see them grow in character.
My friend, our academic coordinator, happily reported to me days later that Kiana, without being told, came up to her along the hallway, hugged and greeted her.  She was so surprised and so impressed at the change in her demeanor.
I was also very pleasantly surprised yesterday, as Kiana confidently walked into our office with a big smile on her face. She ran to me, hugged me and shook my hand, looked into my eyes and said "Good morning, Teacher!"
Right there and then, I knew that we had championed respect in this child.  I felt affirmed that this is what we are here for, to help children like Kiana to grow not only in academic learning but most importantly in Godly character.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 14, 2014.


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