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Educator Articles

Lead with Dignity

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller


Kindergarten. First day of school. Excitement. Too much excitement, perhaps. A six-year-old boy pooped his pants. The teacher knew. Kindergarten teachers know these things. At least they do if they are Spirit Whisperers. This one was.

No, it wasn't raw intuition that tipped her off. Neither was it the fact that the child dropped his head into the shame position when he stood before her. It was one of her other senses that supplied the main clue. She could smell it.

"Sometimes things happen," she said, as she began to deal with this awkward first-day-of-school moment. Not her first day, but his. It was his first day ever at this school, with this teacher, with these students. Do you smell something besides poopy pants? Do you smell the potential for this kid getting off to a really bad start on a very important day in his life? This teacher did.

"Let's talk, just you and me, over here," she invited him. "Everybody has accidents," she continued when they were alone. "I'll take care of you. It's going to be OK. I have clean clothes for you that will fit you just right. When you're done changing your clothes, come join us in the classroom." She saw the relieved look on his face. And he saw the accepting look on hers.

"Let me know if you need any other help," she said quietly. He nodded his head and entered the bathroom. He didn’t need any other help. His day had been saved. He returned to the classroom a few minutes later with new clothes and his dignity intact.