Monday, September 13, 2010

A Humbling Experience

As my Facebook comment states, "Today was among the most humbling days I have ever experienced as a teacher. 13 former students, friends, and colleagues patiently helped 7th graders dig deeper into their writing, look for ways to improve their stories, and offered suggestions on where to go next. The classroom atmosphere was truly electric."  As teachers, we strive to instill in our students a desire to dig deeper, be creative, and follow their passions.  Then, our students leave and we rarely see them again.  Today, I had students who I taught 23 years ago working with my current seventh graders.  These students are parents, parents-to-be, and world travelers.  Some of the students were second generation volunteers in my class.  Their parents volunteered when they were seventh graders.  In addition, friends and colleagues also spent anywhere from 60-90 minutes working with my students today.

What did they do?  They accomplished more in one discussion than I have been able to accomplish in 2 weeks.  They energized the students to improve their writing, to look for the story they wanted to tell, and to polish it.  Tom Tucker, Catlin Gabel shop teacher talks about the sandpaper grit necessary to polish wood to absolute smoothness.  The adults who stopped by today gave that gift to the students.  They talked with them in a totally non-judgmental way, they asked follow-up questions which required the kids to think.  Of course, they also laughed and giggle with the kids.

How did the 7th graders react to sharing their writing with perfect strangers?  They were as open as they could be.  They genuinely trusted these adults to help them edit their stories.  They learned a great deal about themselves as writers and they met someone who was sincerely interested in helping them succeed.

I had shivers running down the back of my neck as I observed the up to 12 conversations simultaneously happening in Fenway today.  It isn't often teachers get to actually see learning taking place.  Today was one of those days.  I was honored by the presence of my former students, friends, and colleagues.  I shall return to class tomorrow a more humble person.  Yes, we took pictures.  They will be posted tomorrow.

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