Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Things to be Learned

There are days when hallway politics overwhelm the most positive of us--you watch the clock ticking, you have to actively remind yourself to be patient, and you once again wonder about that bookstore job opening.  I had one of those days myself, yesterday.

I arrived home last night, too tired and too bitter to say anything too nice, so after letting everything out about how bad my day was on my tirelessly patient husband, I retired to the hot shower.  With steam flowing around me, I thought through my day again.  Everything frustrating about my day revolved around adults who insist on bringing negativity or a lack of straight forwardness into the workplace.  Students played no part in my frustrations.  So I let my mind meander through the day in a new way, trying to remember the positive, attempting to gain perspective.  And what I discovered was that these kids are teaching me how to do that by living that way.

  • There was a 6th grade girl who told me she made a cake she thought I would LOVE and she'll bring me in a piece.
  • There was a 7th grader who stood inches from me at lunchtime asking a thousand questions about DC, her eyes alight with curiousity.
  • There was a 7th grade boy, apologetic for not completing his homework because of a busy weekend, but when I asked him, "Did you do the reading?" he smiled and said yes.  "You're all set then," I told him.  "Turn in the rest tomorrow." I watched his shoulders come down two inches.
  • There was an 8th grade boy, who oftentimes feels disconnected from my content, sitting up straight, enraptured by the stories of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, and eventually, Romeo and Juliet.
  • And then there was a girl in 6th grade.  I was introducing persuasive writing, and a little mouse of a thing who often looks as though she is not paying attention, but usually is, turned sharply in her seat and eyeballed me.  "Are you telling me you want your students to be able to change the world with their writing?  Yes, I responded.  "Are you telling me you think we can change the world with our writing?"  At some level, yes, I responded.  "Are you telling me you're teaching us this because you want us to think we can change the world?"  Of course, I responded.  "Hmmmm.  That's really kind of inspiring, Mrs. Miller.  And kind of cool.  Thanks." 
  • Later that afternoon at track practice I watched a boy who can offer up any number of reasons not to run make his way up hill sprints 10 times without once complaining.  I watched the other boys cheer him on.  I watched another boy who, 2 years ago refused to run and was a discipline problem, use those newly grown long legs to pass his peers and push harder when I called out to him "Wow!  Great job!  Let's see if you can go faster!"  A fleeting grin passed his face before a look of determination took over.

My students are my inspiration.  They work hard and take risks.  They try new things.  They are curious.  My students give to others and support those who are trying.  They apologize for their mistakes.  They are honest.  They offer gratitude when it's appropriate, and they follow their passions.  They know they are human and they let that be. 

Imagine a world where everybody could be as wise as middle schoolers?

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