#BigThingsThursday is a weekly series of short interviews with people who are doing big things for the community and for the world. If you know someone who's doing big things, let me know: BigThings@LucyKalantari.com.
I admire school teachers beyond measure–it is a great responsibility and they have a direct impact on our community. In New York City, our public schools are overcrowded, underfunded and our school teachers are overworked, and yet many choose to go down this path because their intention is strong and pure.
Meet Lisa McGuigan: elementary school teacher, mom and a great friend. She's been teaching in NYC Public Schools for 10 years, and has what I deem the perfect temperament for it. Her approach is loving and warm, with a firmness that makes boundaries and expectations clear to the children she teaches. When I first met Lisa, I had a hunch that she was a great teacher. It was when I witnessed it first hand after a musical visit with her class, I thought, "Oh. Yeah. Kids NEED her. The world NEEDS her."
Teaching primarily to minority and low income families, Lisa has made a difference in many lives. She's constantly thinking of creative ways to help children through the challenges they face with language barriers and social integration.
Q. BIG THINGS begin with an intention, what is yours?
A. My intention is to make the world a more respectful, empathetic, and caring place to be, one class full of students at a time.
Q. How are you fulfilling this intention?
A. As a teacher, I try to instill kindness, respect, empathy, and understanding in my students on a daily basis. We usually start our mornings, in the classroom, by shaking hands with one another, saying good morning, and asking how the other person is doing that day. We then share out about our weekends, the previous night, or anything that the students wish to talk about or discuss. My students practice looking one another in the eye when speaking and listening as sign of respect towards our classmates. We also try to make individual connections to what the classmate has said or is going through – teaching empathy and understanding. The students really value this time and it has helped them to become more of a family than a just a class full of students.
Q. What barriers have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?
A. Many times students may be disrespectful or rude to one another in class, outside of school, or be a witness to it. A lot of this behavior stems from kids being scared or nervous about a situation or they may not have been taught how to deal with the situation and they react negatively because of it.
We deal with this individually and as a class. We role-play scenarios and think about what an appropriate reaction should be. We also discuss how certain reactions and actions make us feel. Giving students coping mechanisms and skills empowers them to be able to act appropriately and respectfully. The more we work on it, the more our students will be prepared to face life with a confidence and knowledge that they can handle almost any situation.
Extra: Share a favorite quote that keeps you motivated.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Thank you Lisa for preparing our children for the future. Our world depends on them.