I met Kristen, a tall blonde with a friendly smile, on a college campus where she was taking a graduate class. As a teacher and mother of two children, she was eager to tell me about her fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Thomas, who had a lasting impact on Kristen both personally and professionally.
Mrs. Thomas created a caring culture in our classroom. She named it Thomasville, and we all became official citizens. My classmates and I got weekly paychecks for completing tasks and doing jobs. We paid rent and paid fines when we violated the rules. At the end of each month, we could use our paychecks to purchase tickets for special activities, like movies or art projects. When one of our classmates was out for weeks with a broken leg, Mrs. Thomas announced that we could each contribute a small amount so he could attend the movie … everybody did.
I grew up on a farm; so I didn’t have neighbors. Being a citizen of Thomasville taught me how to be a good neighbor. I also learned the importance of accountability because the real world isn’t rent free. I learned that there are consequences for my actions, both positive and negative. I learned that a community requires collective responsibility and we take care of those in need. The lessons I learned from Mrs. Thomas had a big impact on the kind of teacher, mother and person I grew up to be.
Kristen’s story illustrates the way teachers integrate life skills and academic skills. Mrs. Thomas had a vision of the people she wanted her students to become. She knew that developing better neighbors was the best way to build a better world. Teachers like Mrs. Thomas give kids like Kristen the chance to experience the harmony of community. How did a teacher help you feel part of a community? Share in the comments below.
Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-
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