Ready to Learn

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Today, I have the opportunity to go back to school, hopefully to learn a new approach or technique to help my students become more successful.  It’s good to spend a day outside of the sometimes frenetic pace of the school day to listen, read, and think about ideas that can help me and my students do even better work in our days together.  This time of year is challenging at best, with end-of-the-year events coming fast and furious, state exams, and waning student (and teacher) energy for learning.   So far, we have had a cool spring, which has slightly delayed the usual spring fever, but once we get past Memorial Day, all bets are off!  

I am at a conference today which will discuss methods for creating a “Social-Emotional Learning” environment in my classroom.  Already I have learned about something called “Responsive Classroom”, which at first blush sounds a culture-building approach for classrooms very similar to what I try to achieve with my students.  I’m hoping that I will learn some new, engaging approaches to use in my classes.  The literature says that Responsive Classrooms teach love.  To me, this is a very affirming statement, because my approach has always been to teach students, not content, and to create a culture of respect, kindness, patience and empathy in all of my classes, starting with myself in the way that I interact with my students.  There are days when my patience is tested, to be sure, but at the end of the day, it is vitally important to me to come back the next day ready to teach, and to give every student a fresh start and a fresh chance to succeed.  Sometimes my students have trouble responding to that call; I just try to give the same message every day, until they are ready to respond.  

Days like today give me the space to reflect on what I do that I value, and hold it up to the light to see how I can do better: priceless.

Returning to School

So it’s the evening of the first day of school; feet are sore, minds are tired and full, and many students are undoubtedly dreading another early start tomorrow. We’ve begun the important process of getting to know each other, and right now, it is still pretty mechanical. We’re all doing what we know how to do; getting up, putting on new clothes for school, bringing in new binders and supplies. We’ve gotten haircuts, gone to the dentist and doctor for checkups, all to make ourselves ready once again for the important work of learning, but we haven’t yet formed our learning communities.

We are still “going through the motions” right now, but daily repetition will quickly remind us of how it feels to teach and to learn. Soon, we will be back “in the groove”, rolling along and learning new ideas, working to learn and perfect important skills.

For everyone who is exhausted tonight, who isn’t sure what tomorrow will bring and isn’t sure he or she wants to know, and who wonders if it will be okay this year: Know that it will be okay; we will remember how to learn, how to be in school. We will be excited and intrigued by new ideas this year, and we will live up to challenges that we can’t even define yet. We simply need to show up and try our best, and keep trying; if we can do this, we cannot fail.