Sometimes the best part of my job are the little moments that occur almost exclusively random and unexpected. Affirming moments when you realize that you have made a difference in a child's life and the moment comes back and makes a difference in you.
I've always tried to be conscious of situations where a overreaction or an improper reaction might create a life moment for one of my students. In other words, kids are sometimes messy, frequently noisy, and sometimes lose their minds for brief periods of time, but those situations don't need to remembered for the rest of their life. Some of them get enough of that at home, like the child that came to school with bruises for spilling juice on the carpet, or the child that was forced to wear the same soiled clothes everyday because she didn't do her chores. I'm not about to intentionally create a life moment in my room for anything that is negative. I try to make my room a safe and reliable place where kids feel comfortable to explore and take responsibility for their own learning.
The life moments that am not aware of are the ones of which the kids create themselves. The moments when they make a connection to what I've presented or exposed them too, something they have never seen, knew existed, or how to do.The only thing that I can control in that equation of learning is by trying to present content that makes meaningful life connections in a fun and interesting way and maybe inspire them to learn more. We recently used the Iditarod Sled Dog race in Alaska to teach measuring, graphing, observing, teamwork, prediction, and distance. We also viewed photos from around the world during the recent Carnivale. The reactions and the occasional silence while looking at the selected photos (MSNBC Carnival From Around the World) were indications that I was sharing something that the kids hadn't seen before. Silence, when unleashed from amazement and wonderment is a pretty terrific sound.
Unfortunately, I don't always know if I made a connection or inspired a student to look further into a topic that might have excited or inspired them. Those moments may come long after they have walked out of Room116 for the last time, but I do know that when a student wants more learning to come their way, it makes my day.
The other day I was behind in some of my correspondence and non-teaching stuff, not like I ever seem to be caught up. Anyways, I decided to take my laptop down to dismissal and get some items ticked off my list as the kids names come over the loudspeaker and head through the gym door for home. My job is pretty simple during dismissal, I just make sure that when my kids names are called, they get their things and go. A perfect time to perform some mindless tasks. Miguel saw that I was working on my laptop and came over to sit down next to me. He asked me what I was up to and quickly learned that the task was nothing important. He had a better idea on how to spend our last moments of the day together and asked "Mr. Johnson, will you teach me something I've never seen before?" I looked at him, opened a new tab in my my browser and replied, "Yes Miguel, where do you want to go?"
Miguel had just created a life moment for me, one that he'll never recognize as more than a casual question. The moment helps to illustrate just how big of an impact my role as a child's teacher can be and helped me to understand that no interaction between student and teacher should be regarded as a cast off moment. All the interactions have the potential to mean something, have an impact. Even to a six year old while he was waiting to go home.
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