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Empowering Through Education by Judianne Jayme

Respect: open faces, open minds, open attitudes

by Judianne Jayme

The common reaction when I say I’m a middle years (grades 5-8) teacher is one mixed with awe, shock, and some respect. This reaction is usually followed by a question that I choose to take as a compliment: “Was that your first choice of grade level?”

Let me first answer that yes, it has always been my first choice. I have always wanted to teach this age group not only because of the challenges they can bring, but also because of the rewards that come with the tasks. One such reward is when I see the difference that my colleagues, my school, and I are making in the lives of these young students.

The main concern people have about this age group is their growing attitude which, truly, is a staple of this age group as they go through developmental changes both physically, emotionally, and hormonally. A policy that the teachers at my school have is to teach the kids about what we call “Open Face,” a practice that I personally was taught by Kate Byman, our division’s Language Arts Support Teacher. This practice teaches kids to not give passive-aggressive body language if they are paired up or put in a group with people they do not usually work with. This means no sighs, no eye rolling, and no whining. As Ms. Byman cleverly puts it, “you don’t have to be friends to be friendly.”

We have classrooms that are now used to practicing Open Face as it is a practice that is consistently being taught and travels with the students as they move up grades to new classrooms. Practice makes permanent, and this concept of being respectful and developing a healthy, positive working relationship with others is one that I hope they take with them throughout their educational journey. They know that when it is time for partner or group work, they are to show that respect for each other and learn to collaborate. This is a simple and easy way to not only teach, but practice respect among peers.

Parent tip: Show your open face!

Open Face is something that I, myself, have chosen to practice in my daily life. It’s easy as adults to forget what we look like every day – the vibe that we send to the world through every small expression, comment, and body language. When we have a rough day at work, it’s easier to come home, wanting to do nothing, and perhaps complain about the day.

I challenge you this week to choose to have an open face. Don`t waste your energy on spreading negativity, gossip, or an attitude of complaint. Choose, instead, to have an attitude of gratitude. Take a deep breath, unwind, take care of your thoughts and be mindful of your words, then learn from the day’s lessons. When children see their parents taking this approach, they will inevitably transfer that habit to their own attitudes about environment and the outcomes of the day. Best of luck, and keep that open face, open mind, and open attitude!

Judianne Jayme is an educator teaching sixth grade and a division-wide mentor in the Winnipeg School Division.

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