I also love to hear how happy my students are, and they seem pretty darned happy.
They love their classes, and there is a beautiful balance of that. Most of them have favorite classes, and it’s balanced. I’m so lucky to teach with passionate, caring, gifted teachers. The balance of what we bring to our students is an almost ideal.
I woke up early, the day after conferences, my mind whirling with possibilities. I’d heard how much students loved language arts, and why. They loved the freedom of choice. My teaching partner, Emily, and I have been talking about this.
Today’s big question had students reading the bullets in my last blog and identifying which statement I’d made about what what Emily and I see on a daily basis that fits them best as a learner. As always, our hope for our big questions is to learn a lot from them. We did. You can see some responses here.
One of the best moments was when I walked by a student who was on his writing document. I leaned down and asked him if he’d done the fire-up(opening question) yet. He smiled and said no. I smiled back at him and directed him to look at my blog. I told him I could help him with his answer because I already knew it. I pointed to this bullet:
- Not answering the daily question because they want to write.
As Emily and I dive more deeply into this personalized learning atmosphere, we keep opening up to more and more freedoms. That student who was “off task” was engaging in something pretty darned important. He was writing. And this is a student who had never liked to write before he got to choose.
And then another student answered the question briefly, and he began to work on a science project. I asked him why he was working on science. He got teary and said he needed to get his grade up. This is a student we’ve been helping a lot lately because he’d gotten himself into a hole.
So, I jumped on his document and wrote this:
To student: So, your answer today should be this:
- Answering the daily question quickly so they can research another topic they care about.
I gave him permission to do his science work during language arts class. Why not. I’m going to mix up that old metaphor. Give a kid an inch, and he’ll give you a mile. I watched him after I wrote to him on his document. He sat staring at his document not working on it and not working on his science. I walked up to him and quietly asked him what he needed, what I could do to help. He said, “I’m re-reading all of my work so I can add to it and make it better.” His tears were long gone, and so was his need to work on science.
So, my reflection is about how we really just need to pay attention to our students’ needs. We have 30+ souls a day in each class. They all have their lives.
And we don’t know what they’re going through in their lives. At best, their lives are full and confusing. At worst...well, they’re bad. And every kid is a person who thinks differently, thinks differently from others, and thinks differently from us.
And every day is different.
What we learned, reading their responses, is what we mostly expected: they are all different and have different needs. They want to do well, and they want to learn.
I’m a teacher and an adult. I have one major responsibilty, and that is to help my students with whatever they need, as much as I can.
I believe that letting a student finish their science during language arts is okay, maybe more than okay.. I believe that letting my second language learner skip the fire-up question so he can write his novel is better than okay.
As I was circulating around the room today,I watched one of my students on her laptop, scrolling through pictures of cupcakes. This is my student who bakes every night and brings us all treats daily. I spoke to her, softly, asking her what she was doing. She got flustered and switched over to her poetry tab. I waved her off, essentially telling her that I knew what she was doing. She was exploring her authentic interest.
She was red-faced, embarrased, and I pulled her aside. I asked her if she had ever considered writing a baking blog. I watched her face, her mouth opening and closing like a guppy. She said “I never thought of that.” She procedeed to brighten and lighten. Then, she physically jumped.
Every time I pull a student aside, for any reason, and they get nervous, it makes me sad. Students should feel like a teacher wants to talk to them for good, not bad. I watched her friend when I pulled her aside. Her friend watched on, worried. I pulled a face at her, and she smiled sheepishly. But she continued to watch, and when my student went back to her desk, alive with the possibilities of the blog, they whispered together, both smiling, then settling into their own work.
During conferences the other night, I talked to a student who was worried because he couldn’t settle into writing, though he’d had many ideas and had been excited about them. I told him I had a theory about why he often sat, staring into space. I asked him if he just couldn’t stop daydreaming. He admitted that that’s exactly what he was doing. So, I repeated a common mantra. “Write your thoughts down. Instead of sitting and thinking. Sit and write.” He liked the idea. I have said the same words to him many times, but this time he heard them (and listened, or understood, or decided to try it since his mother was sitting next to him….).
He asked me to read what he’d written, to see if he was doing what I suggested...to see if he was doing “okay”. I read three pages of his hopes, dreams, aspirations, and fears. It was amazing. What made it even more amazing was that he shared the document with his family, including his grandparents. And I read their replies to him, their encouragement, and his response to them. I got choked up at the beauty of the glimpse into his mind and heart and family.
And that is why I love my job. I get to be humbled and learn every single day.
Yesterday, one of my teammates and I approached a student who was making too much noise in the classroom. She got to him before I did, and I watched her softly talking to him about his behavior and how it affected others. She reminded me how important it is to stay soft, to be gentle. I’m so lucky to teach with such amazing peoople who I learn from daily.
And I’ve written this before. Being surrounded by so much humanity has bouyed me during difficult times, sustained me, and kept me focused on love and learning, not sadness and fear.
Today is the 6th anniversary of our first of three visits to the doctors and the hospital, and tomorrow is the 6th anniversary of when Danny was hospitalized, when we were told he probably wouldn’t survive.
Last night, Danny and I were sharing stories about students. Good ones, sad ones, amazing humbling ones, and funny ones. I shared all the ones I’ve shared here. And then, we both stopped and looked at each other, sharing an understanding. We both got teary, and we said, almost simultaneously, that our lives are impacted so greatly by the humanity of what we do. And our focus during this difficult, reflective time, has been mostly not on us and what we went through, but on others. And for that, we are so grateful.
Gratitude: Pretty much everything. Teaching in an amazing community with fantastic teachers. Neighbors, family, friends. Danny.
Goal: as my sister-in-law says, “keep looking through the windshield and not the rear-view mirror”.