A few weeks ago we were reading a book that mentioned a spider monkey. While we were talking about it, I asked the kids to speculate why the name was spider monkey. They gave me various ideas. As we were talking, I realized that I didn't know for certain the answer. I thought I did but I didn't want to tell kids something I didn't know was absolutely true.
"I'll check on why they are called spider monkeys," I said. "I'll let you know the answer."
A day (or so) later, someone asked, "Why are they called spider monkeys?" I hadn't checked on it. I had forgotten. And I owned up to it.
"I forgot to check," I said. "I'll write a note and check. I will tell you tomorrow." And I did. (In fact, I checked during lunch and told them that afternoon.)
I'm keeping this note to remind myself to always follow through on what I say I will do. I want the kids to trust me and the things I say. Trust is a vital part of our learning community. I will trust them and their word. I want them to trust me and my word.
Now, realistically, I have a lot in my head. And I'm not a young man anymore so the memory doesn't work as well as it once did. Someone may say that it's silly to worry about this type of thing.
But trust is important. Some of my kids have people in their lives who don't do what they say. I know because they tell me. I do not want to be one of those people. And, when I do forget again (and I will), I want to apologize and follow through as much as possible.
I know there are many important things I need to do as a teacher--helping them grow as readers, developing math skills, exploring and experimenting. But creating a positive community - a good learning atmosphere - is as important. And keeping my promises, following through, is one key way to build community.
I think I'll always equate spider monkeys and keeping promises from now on.