word of the day: lesson \le-sən\ a piece of instruction; something learned by study or experience
It always surprises me how quickly summer vacation arrives. Monday night I was up until Midnight grading research papers; this morning I slept in until 9:00. It always catches me a little off guard.
In order to ease that transition, the first thing I feel compelled to do, on this beautiful morning is write. A task that is therapeutic to me in more ways than one because with writing comes reflecting. And reflecting always seems to help me move forward.
As teachers, we are no strangers to lessons. We plan them daily. We create anticipatory sets in an attempt to get students excited about the learning ahead. We carefully balance group work and independent practice so that students are able to have multiple approaches to mastery. We let students see inside our minds as we model certain processes to thinking. We are acutely aware of when a lesson is tanking and spend the four minutes in between classes scrambling to make it better. We do everything we can to make sure learning happens on a daily basis, and many teachers will tell you that the most rewarding part of the job is the “aha moment.” That instance where you hear a kid say, “Ohh. I get it.”
I’ve always (somewhat facetiously) thought of teaching as my superpower. Now that I really think about it, I think it’s the learning. It’s the acquisition of new knowledge that keeps us moving forward—that motivates us to be better at what we do.
It’s not just student learning though. As I sit here and reflect on all that was this past school year, I wonder who really learned more lessons. I might give those students a run for their money.
Since August, I have learned that 9th graders are really very funny. They surprised me with their creativity this year. I saw the whirlpool monster Charybdis depicted as a toilet. I heard a barbershop quartet (or something like it) sing a summary of Odysseus’ run in with the Cyclops. I saw said Cyclops devouring men (Ken dolls) through the make-shift construction paper mouth that really served a perfect purpose. I laughed a lot this year and was thankful for the reminder that, when given the opportunity, most students will rise and accept the challenge to create great things.
I have also learned that personal growth comes when you least expect it. It comes when you’re thrust into something you’re not ready for or when you’re met with a task you don’t feel qualified for. It happens slowly, and when you’re on the other end, you wonder, “Haven’t I always been this way?”
I have learned that encouragement goes a long way. That some days, it makes all the difference. I have a card from my mom that hangs above my desk with this Chuck Swindoll quote:
Encouragement is awesome. It has the capacity...to breathe fresh fire into the fading embers of smoldering dreams, to actually change the course of another human being's day, week or life.
I lived on the receiving end of this many times this year—the smiles in the hallway, the email first thing in the morning, or the sticky note reminders that I matter—and I don’t know what I would have done without those people who were clearly placed in my life for a reason.
I have learned that people innately carry their struggle with them. The student who acts out is most likely dealing with something difficult outside the walls of my classroom. In those cases, it’s not just my responsibility to teach. It’s also my responsibility to understand and care.
I’m thankful for all that transpired between August and May. I’m thankful for the students who walked in my classroom on a daily basis and for the people whose lives intersected mine just as often. Because of the mistakes and the laughter and the tears and the celebrations, I am better. I have learned, and I have grown. And really, what more can you ask for?