What a great, much needed rest.
It’s been a week since Spring Break came to a close, and I’m hopeful for the next two months! The first few days back from a break are sometimes rocky – did they REALLY not remember what country we live in after just a week away from school? – but I think we’re back in a groove.
As a teacher, each new school year seems to provide a blank slate of possibilities for what’s to come. On the first day of school there is a magical feeling, like anything is possible and we’re going to learn everything by the end of 180 days.
Now that spring has come into our school year, there’s a sense of urgency. I only have them for a short while, and an even shorter amount of time until their end-of-the-year state exams. Now we tend to focus our curriculum into a tight laser of “the essential” stuff we want them to know before they’re out of our hands once again for the summer.
And isn’t life the same way? We start out with wild dreams and crazy expectations (in a good way). The world is our oyster.
Halfway through, we start to get a little more practical, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had. The reality that not EVERYTHING is going to be accomplished in one lifetime is pretty clear now, and we start to focus our efforts on what we thing is most important.
I haven’t reached the spring break of my life yet, but whether we’re there, or around the halfway mark, or even if you’re still at the first days of school – this is clear:
Treat every day like it’s the final days of learning. The last days of school are coming soon enough….
Just because an idea is an old one, does not make it a bad one. And it does not necessarily make it a good one. The wheel is still a pretty great idea, but maybe one made of stone isn’t so awesome. It took new thinking to say “hey, lets try something else.” And it worked. Some day, someone is going to try making Wheels from compressed air molecules. And that might not work so great (or maybe it will?). But someone else might think of a new way to make a wheel, and it works. If it works better than the old, should we stick with the old rubber models just because that’s the way it’s always been done?
New thinking is progress. And just like sharks, if we don’t progress we die.
We need new thinking in education, just like everywhere else. We need new thinking in parenting. If something works better, we should do it. Just because we’ve always learned our multiplication facts the same way, doesn’t mean we always should (even if all the parents say “This isn’t how WE did it.” or “I don’t understand this NEW way of doing it.”)
If something is working in your class or with your kids or anything in your life – KEEP DOING IT. But if something else would work better…lets keep progressing.
There’s certainly challenges in my life. It seems like they crop up every day. Some days there’s little, some days there’s a lot. But every day brings at least one. It’s really just life. Challenges are what life is all about.
Most days, the challenges are your standard variety. The normal day to day parts of the job that people have to deal with – this student needs some extra multiplication help, this person needs an email to clarify something, the bank seems to be short $50 – minor annoyances that we are there to fix. The lightbulbs need changing. The laundry needs done. Pretty routine.
But some days the big ones creep up on you. The car won’t start before work in the morning. The car breaks down or you get into an accident. The kids have stomach flu, or worse. There’s an emergency at work. And of course, life threatening illnesses that are the world changers. They’re out there, waiting for us. They can happen at any time.
I used to be scared of these things happening. I used to dread them, and when they DID happen – trying to get ready for work and suddenly the kids are throwing up all over my jacket, for instance – I would get upset and frustrated and flustered.
But I realized something in those moments that make me change my perspective. Just a change in thinking about these instances made me change the way I approached the challenges of life.
When we play videogames, there are challenges all over the place. There are things we need to figure out, bad guys to defeat, and obstacles to overcome. If there were not, we wouldn’t even bother playing the game. A videogame where you just had to walk from point a to point b, and then it was over, with no challenges in the way, would be boring and mundane. Why even bother putting the game in?
When the challenges in life come up, remember – this is your chance to pass this level. This is the moment where you meet the big “boss” of this stage, and you can defeat him. The way you handle the situation will determine whether you make it past, or have to repeat the level until you do it right. Embrace the challenge. Otherwise you’ll never get any farther than you already are.
It’s a simple act. Step outside. Do something different. But it always seems so hard to make the first step. First steps in anything are, classically, the hardest ones to take.
Life is about making first steps. Every first step you take is a new experience you’ve put under your belt. That first time you tried turnips. The first time you went ice skating. The first time you wore neon green. You don’t think about it, but you get up every day when you probably don’t want to. You make a choice what to eat, what to get dressed in…and if you always did the same thing you’d never take any first steps. But then would you be experiencing everything life has to offer?
I think as teachers and parents we think we’re done with our “living” and focus on teaching the young ones about it. But the best teachers are the experienced ones. The best instructional tool is being a great example.
I want my kids to be lovers of life. I want them to be first step takers. I want them to experience everything, the good and the bad. And that means I have to show them what a first step taker looks like, acts like…what he does everyday in everything.
I think I’ll take that first step, and choose to go outside now. Maybe I’ll go bird watching. I’ve always thought about doing that.
It seems that I count a lot. It’s a fundamental skill and idea in our society to use numbers (and a system of numbers based on increments of 10) to conceptualize an amount. It can be an amount of objects, and amount of time, and amount of money…if we want to keep track of anything we have to count.
I’m often counting down to motivate kids to quickly finish a task. “Okay, put away all your materials! 10, 9, 8, 7….”
Sometimes I mix it up – “100, 90, 80, 70….” It’s effective, and all my kids know how to count down from 10, I know that! 🙂
But when we engage with kids, and spend time with them, we need to make sure we don’t count down the time, instead of making the time count.
Every second you are with a young mind – as a teacher or parent or uncle (you get the idea) – is an amazing opportunity to take advantage of filling that mind with knowledge and wonder. Make your time count each day. If you are just filling the void with things to count down the time – “okay, now just write some sentences” or “just sit down and watch TV” you are missing the opportunity of the day!
Make your time count each day.
I remember very little from my elementary education years, if you figure that there were about 1000 days in K-5, and I probably remember maybe 200 individual days or events. I do have some knowledge of the things I learned (I remember the ABC’s, how to count, and that the united states has 50 of them – so don’t get discouraged teachers. It IS sinking in.)
But the day to day stuff is pretty much lost to me, except for some very specific memories –
– asking a girl to be my girlfriend (she declined)
– Any time I was made fun of or embarrased
– Meeting friends for the first time
– The talent show in 5th grade
– Mrs. Phillips singing “Peanut Butter and Jelly”
– and on and on (that’s maybe another blog post – “elementary memories”
The point is, memories are made each day in our classrooms, and we don’t even know it. We usually don’t even know it when they happen (like the girl I heard talking to a boy yesterday, asking “if you could go out with anyone in the class, who would it be?” with a hopeful tone to her voice (he was WAY too young to know how to respond to that).
Next time someone asks you what it is you do, if you’re a parent or teacher or mentor or friend, tell them you’re a MEMORY MAKER.
Now, excuse me. I have a few memories to make myself.
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