The other day, an 8th grade boy named Fabio came up to me at the end of class. I had taught a demo lesson in his classroom, about structuring informational writing. And I had prefaced this lesson, as I often do, by telling the kids that we were here to learn from them and I hoped they would let us know what they were thinking when we asked. The class proceeded, and I ended up gathering Fabio and two peers into a group to help them get more writing done.
At the end of class, Fabio came up and said “So…what did you learn from us today?”
So often, my opening spiel about learning from them is more about me reminding teachers of what our purpose is, and reassuring kids that we’re not all here to judge them. I’ve never before had a kid take it seriously enough to find out whether we actually did learn from them.
Fabio, though, remembered what I had said, and cared enough to ask – that was great – but even better, he got me thinking about that crucial question. What am I learning from the kids and teachers I work with every day? Am I listening as much as I’m talking? Am I walking into schools with a learning stance?
What I realized is that sometimes I’m not – sometimes, I’m coming into schools with a plan (good) and I’m too focused or tired or harried to stop and think about the plan (less good). On this particular day, with several lessons and meetings scheduled, it was easy to focus on charging ahead through the day instead of pausing to enjoy the kids and enjoy the process. Fabio got me to stop and wonder. And, of course, this bustle and super-productivity is our everyday life – we’re busy! We’re teachers! But when kids ask us these kinds of contemplative questions, we have to take them seriously. If they bother to ask, we should bother to consider.
Here are three ways I’m thinking I can work on this stance – and I’d love to hear more in the comments!
- Go into the day with a goal – to learn 2, or 3, or 4 new things in a day.
- Make time and space for reflection – set aside a space in my notes, and a time before I get caught up in the bustle of commuting home, or cooking dinner, or prepping for tomorrow, to think about what I learned and how I’m growing from the places I go.
- Ask kids about things I’m curious about – like “What do you wish adults knew about people your age?” or “What do you think the purpose of this class is?” or “When do you need to write in your life?” (or even just “What DOES “on fleek” mean, and is it a real word?”)