Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Thoughts about developing lifelong learners

I am a firm believer that every student should find something they love about school. Our job as educators is to educate rather than entertain, but that should stand in our way of making each day the best experience we can.

I know that as students grow older, they often drag themselves to school grumbling and they can find plenty of things they dislike. However, I have also seen sparks ignite in older students as learning becomes an experience.

Yesterday, I left my school a little later than I had planned, but I still found time to do a couple of things on my way to the Central California CUE Board meeting. I stopped by to drop off and pick up with the person who had checked on some things for us while we were on vacation and then, I hit the nail salon for a long-overdue polish change (so long, I had picked polish off of at least five fingers). I sat there hoping things would move along quickly and expecting to make it to my meeting on time. The place was near empty when I arrived; however, it started filling up with people needing various salon services. A woman entered with her two children. One sat with his small electronic and chilled while he waited for his mom. The daughter sat near another customer, an apparent family friend or some such, to chat while she waited for her mom. The very friendly young woman talked with the girl, making various small talk. They sat behind me, so I have no visual, only what I quietly overhear and how I envisioned what I heard.

At one point, the conversation turned to school.
"What grade are you in," inquired the woman.
"Kindergarten," replied the girl.
"Do you like it," asked the woman.
"Not really," replied the girl.

My heart sank. I heard very little of what was said next because I got lost in thought. How could a five or six-year-old not like school? Even on a bad day, both of my kids have generally liked school. I teach middle school and have heard the older student grumbles, but they still seem to like school overall. How could this young girl already be so turned off from the idea of school? In the midst of pleasant conversation, I am accustomed to young students glowing in their reviews of school. As a mom who has seen my children struggle at times, I have always heard very positive responses from them with regard to school. In fact, last night, my daughter flipped through her "First Grade Memory Book" remembering good times with friends, learning, and her teacher.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope everyone reading this is doing their best. As a teacher, I have good days and bad days. I try to keep those bad days in check and do everything I can to keep it a good day for my students. We should all be doing this. Frankly, kindergarten teachers are heroes. They do things that other cannot. They take young minds at the start of the school careers and prepare them to become lifelong learners. Folks, if we lose these kids in kindergarten, it will only get increasingly more difficult as they get older. Imagine what this poor girl may feel by the time she reaches middle school and high school. We have our work cut out for us.

I share a lot about making each day an EduAwesome Adventure. This is more than talk. This is more than a Facebook post or Tweet. This has become my philosophy as a teacher and as a mom. This is why I consider myself a TeacherMom. We need to strive to be engaging. We need to pull out our Educational Swiss Army knives and make magic happen in our classrooms. Will our students love every single day? Maybe not. But if we can build our resources, use tips from colleagues and edu-friends, teach across the curriculum, make things interesting, and work to reach each and every student, then perhaps we can potentially avoid our students sitting in a nail salon late one evening talking about not enjoying or liking school. We can do this. But we have to want it and we have to work for it.

By the way, I did make it to that meeting and it was a great one. I kept my nail salon experience in the back of my mind as we met. Now in a role where I not only have to reach my students where they are, but reach out to fellow educators, I think about these sorts of observations more and more. I am proud to be a part of an organization that builds up teachers who in turn build up lifelong learners. I am proud to be a part of something that is working to make each and every day an EduAwesome Adventure for students, teachers, parents, and the community. I am honored to have a place in this big world that is shaping things yet to come. Happy CUE Year! Now, get out there, hook your students, and do something amazing. They will remember you for it for a long time to come and their future teachers will thank you for sending along students who are engaged and ready for learning in all its forms.

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