Lesson Number 1 – Divert! Divert! Divert!
My husband and I live in a house that leaks, not severely, but it definitely lets in water when there are strong storms. Irene was going to drop a lot of water, which it in fact did, so we went into preparation mode. We came up with some new strategies to handle the pounding that was going to happen. The most effective, Dick’s brainstorm, was based on our rain barrel. He took 4 trashcans, fitted them with faucets and attached hoses to them. He put them under the places around the house where the gutters and downspouts usually get overwhelmed, causing the water to pound into the ground and seep into the house.
As the school year starts, this idea of diverting the water, so that it did not injure the ground and the house, seems like a good metaphor for a new goal. I want to provide my students with skills and new ways of thinking, but I must make sure to deliver them in ways that do no beat them down. The goal is to avoid pounding and then drowning them in a single, “right” way to learn. Instead, I want a classroom that gives them chances, lots of them, as many as it takes to absorb and gain control over new ideas. If provided with time and a variety of strategies, then each student can learn and take in their growth at whatever rate she can. For some, that will come quickly with no sense of being overwhelmed; for others, the learning will need to be defused and diverted to avoid pooling and overwhelming her. By paying attention to each student, to the signs of success or concern or panic, I want to present ways to grow that match each student in the room.
Lesson Number 2 – Never underestimate strength!
In our garden, I had planted an okra late, really late. It is only about a foot tall, and when I heard the news about Irene, I pretty much decided that, after the storm, it would be too beaten down to survive. I just wrote it off, not expecting it to withstand the deluge. It was simply too young and too fragile. But when the rains abated, it totally fooled me. We went to check the garden, and there it was, standing tall and looking like it had grown an inch or two while weathering the storm. What was a day of pounding rain to this little plant!
So that led to Goal #2. I have had students like this, and I will again, ones who look like they will never learn, never survive the rigors of learning, and yet they do. They find the ways to hold on, to take in the lessons and ideas and to become stronger from their efforts. I want to provide a classroom where each student learns how to be strong enough to withstand the challenges of learning. School can teach a student that he or she is a failure, that they can not do what is asked of them. It can take away their sense of power and control. My classroom needs to be a place where students learn strength, where they come away with more power, not with less. That is a hard goal. I am not perfect and will make mistakes, but the goal is still there. I want to make my students able to withstand the challenges of learning and growing.
We must show our students how to dig their roots in deep, so that they can withstand challenges. Even when studying their passions, there will always be times when it is difficult, when they want to give up. So my goal is to prepare my students with the tools and the joy in their learning, so that they will still be standing after their each challenge that comes their way.
Here’s to a great new year!