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    Posted October 12, 2010 by
    Manassas, Virginia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    iReport boot camp: Editing the story

    More from JaneJones1

    Not Just A Rock . . .


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     JaneJones1 shared her story about taking a creative approach to communicate with her students. Early in her teaching career, JaneJones1 noticed that her students were hesitant to ask questions. In response, JaneJones1 used a hand painted gift from a student to open new lines of communication.
    - nhieatt, CNN iReport producer

    1972, Fairfax, Virginia, add one fresh-faced twenty-two year-old teacher and thirty-three uniquely lovable sixth-graders. Working summer jobs on playgrounds had taught me something about dealing with kids, but I was not the perfect first-year educator I thought I'd be.

    After my long days, I would fall into bed as soon as I got home and get up around midnight to grade papers and plan lessons. All was clicking along or so it seemed to me. I thought I was connecting with my students, but in parent conferences, I was being told that children were afraid to ask questions.  Students thought I might condemn them for not listening or their classmates might tease them for being dumb. I bushed these off as typical excuses for slacking.

    One day, a student gave me a good -sized rock she had painted with a big smiley face on it.  It fit snugly on the corner of my desk.  It made my day to look at that rock and it reminded me to lighten up.  However, the rock came to be something more important to me and my students. Unknowingly, Gayle, the student who gave me my rock opened a fantastic method of safe and secret communication. I had thought about students being afraid to “talk” to me and suddenly decided they could leave me notes under the rock.

    “Rock notes”, I let my students and parents know, “can be anonymous or signed and let me know how I could improve or change or any problem you or your guardians may have.”

    Over the rest of my thirty-four year career, my rock notes dealt with suggestions, bullying, incest and more.  I never saw the notes arrive under my rock because students are amazing like that. I connected with the student or student(s) at a time that would not attract attention.

    The rock is on my bed side table now that I’m retired. It reminds me of my students and parents. It’s amazing how many problems were prevented or solved with that smooth, beige stone with the bold, yellow smiley face.  It was the simplest thing I ever tried to improve communication. My rock is much more than a rock because reveals a lot about my belief system. It reminds me that I will listen to what others say, adjust and help when able and most importantly not judge. 

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