Well, I had decided when I came back to the blog that Sunday would be my regular blogging day, but this Sunday I was coming back from the lake and sleeping. Therefore, Tuesday is blogging day. We're two days into in-service week at my school. The children and their parents came for Open House last night, and we start school next Monday. Amidst all the yearly reminders and required sessions on things-we-need-to-know-for-a-great-year, two things stood out to me, and they've been mulling around in my brain for the past 48 hours.
The first thing is a quote that my principal asks everyone she interviews for teaching positions. She always states her favorite quote and asks each candidate what it means to him or her. The quote is, "No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship." I have no idea what my response was when she asked me that question. I'm sure I was so adrenaline-driven that I just blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. However, in the course of the day yesterday, she also told us the answer that one of my coworkers gave in his interview, and it's probably one of my favorite things I've heard lately. He said that his job (our job as teachers) isn't just to create significant 7th graders. Our job is to create significant adults. Therefore, significant learning is lifelong learning. It's learning that creates significant adults.
Now, "significant" is relative to the child, but the essence of this response rang in my ears all day yesterday, especially during Open House last night. I'm not just preparing kids to be great seventh graders; I should be giving them the knowledge or thirst for knowledge that they need to grow into individuals who thrive on inquiry and critical thinking. I should be striving to foster individuality and creativity. In my opinion, those are the qualities that breed "significance," far more than superior standardized test taking skills breed significance. I get it that standardized testing is part of my reality as a teacher, but I really want my focus this year to be on authentic learning experiences.
The second thing that stuck in my mind was a speaker we heard today during our district's convocation. His call to action for us was to tell the positive stories of our classroom. When he said that, I immediately thought, "Oh, I have got this! I do that in my blog!" But then I went on to think about happy hour with my friends, when I complain about the tough things that happened during the week or the problem children I dealt with; I thought about calling my boyfriend to vent about that tough class period that was slowly wearing me down; I thought about whining to my parents about the papers I had to grade and the lack of effort a student may have made on an assignment. I began to realize that I'm not always a great ambassador for my school.
Here's the thing, I adore my job. The pros far outweigh the cons. And while it's important to vent to protect one's general sanity, I need to make sure I'm advertising to everyone around me that middle school is wonderful, and my job is rewarding and fulfilling. In a show of good faith toward my decision to be more positive, here's a small positive story to start me off...
At Open House last night, I saw hundreds of people. Parents, students, and siblings came through my room all night. Somewhere in the middle of the rush, two former students of mine came into my room. I taught them during my first year of teaching, and they were always causing chaos or forgetting homework. Anyway, these two boys walked in my door with huge smiles on their faces, silently sat down in desks, and waited patiently for a group of new parents and students to leave and visit other classrooms. When the group had moved on, these two boys stood up and gave me huge bear hugs that swallowed me (even in 9th grade they're already taller than me), and they said, "We sure miss you, Ms. Herring." They stayed and chatted, telling me about school, summer vacations, and football. Open House was the third or fourth time since being in seventh grade that these two boys have come back together to visit me. I've said before that it's the little things that can really make any day better. Their visit made my day better because their visit meant that I made a difference for them. Maybe it was a small difference. But regardless of the size of the impact, just knowing that they remembered seventh grade English enough to stop by and update me on their lives made me smile to myself. Visits like theirs, letters that students send me to say "thank you" or "I miss your class;" those are the only signs I need that slowly but surely, I'm helping to create significant adults.
So I look forward to a year of significant learning and sweet stories of my classroom. I can't wait to get started and get to know this new group of kids. I really, truly believe that this will be the best year yet.