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Have You Ever Wanted A Clean Slate?

I recently was in a classroom supporting a teacher who was really struggling with one particular student.  They had received support from other people who had offered helpful strategies - however the intensity of aggression and dysregulation was not subsiding.  Even worse, it was escalating.

I had offered suggestions over the phone and in meetings, but I had never met this student, so I honestly had no idea what to expect when I walked into to the classroom.  

And here's the thing: after MONTHS of this student being dysregulated, physically hurtful, and "difficult", the teacher was exasperated, exhausted, and teetering on "done". 

I watched in awe as this remarkable teacher gave this student:

  • ONE MORE "clean slate" opportunity...

  • one more benefit of the doubt versus jumping to a negative conclusion...

  • and one more commitment of looking for what is right versus what is wrong

However, on THIS DAY, the teacher ALSO found a way to have delight, empathy, and deep care in her eyes when she did it... an expression and feeling that had not been present in the past, and was no doubt being pulled from the depths of her toes! 

She had found a way to remove herself from survival mode, get in touch with her heart, and regulate herself enough to have her wisdom come from a place of compassion and empathy instead of "focusing on making the student STOP the 'poor' behavior". 


And I'm here to tell you I witnessed MAGIC!  This student had a remarkable day... and has continued to have beautiful days ever since!!!

What was The Secret Sauce that enabled this student to demonstrate such a powerful turnaround?  It is my belief that it was the clean slate opportunity combined with the look of delight in the teacher's eyes.  Yes, she demonstrated skill and strategies that were amazing... but she had tried those same approaches in the past.  I believe it was truly HER essence and image of the student that was the game changer!  

Why does this matter to you or us? 

  • It's the time of year when we make New or Renewed Resolutions - and we may already be off track. :)  

  • We may have students with whom we are experiencing challenges and we are trying to find a way or reason to not throw in the towel.

  • We may have staff we lead who are floundering and struggling and we are having a hard time finding our endurance or creativity to keep working to support them.

What I believe to be true is that, as leaders and educators, we know that all humans need 2 things: 

1) An opportunity for a clean slate when we struggle to be who we want to be 

2) Someone who sees the essence of us and gives us a true "do over" when we miss the boat.  Yes, someone who looks at us with DELIGHT.  

I'm not suggesting this is easy!  It's hard to find ways to delight in some people, or their behaviors.  However, if we can remember that we all make mistakes, we all have things that are super difficult for us when the demands are high, and we all become less loveable at times when things get really hard - perhaps it will pluck our heartstrings to find some extra compassion or empathy we couldn't find before - for ourselves or others.  

So, no matter where we are...

Whether we are disappointed in ourselves because we've already returned to sugar and carbs by Feb 1 :),

Are wishing a particular student would "just be sick for one day" to give us a break,

Or are leading a staff person with whom we dread interacting... 

My guess is that every single one of us is grateful for someone in OUR lives who offered us a clean slate or a do-over at some point along this messy journey.  I also truly hope that YOU have someone(s) that look at YOU with delight!  

May we all continue to find ways to dig deep and pass this "Clean Slate and Delight" gift along to staff, students, parents, coworkers, family members... and ourselves!  



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