This morning, I saw a tweet from @CoachB0066 saying that he was beyond thrilled to be back in school. It reminded me of last week, when a student told me that I was awfully “peppy, not in a bad way,” and I responded that it was because I love my job. Teachers, especially ones who love learning, both teaching it and doing it themselves, are some of the happiest workers I know. Challenges and conflicts simply send us into overdrive, trying to figure how a certain student thinks or what better way to help each one gain mastery. It is all a wonderful and ever-changing puzzle that draws us on, rather than discourages us.
I realized that that same kind of love of the work is what I want for each of my students. I want them to come to school with an eagerness to take on the challenges. I want them to feel “peppy” when confronted with both tasks where they quickly succeed and tasks that force them beyond their comfort zones.
I think that there are two parts to making that happen. The first is humor and fun. I want my students to enjoy being in class; I want them surprised and interested. It is one reason I change my desks around all the time. I want them curious before they even start a lesson, before they get to my door. “What will she have us doing today?” I want them to discover that learning is exciting, that discovering new facts and understanding complicated ideas is energizing and simply fun. They need to feel part of this journey of discovery!
The other part of learning and growing is building resilience and determination in a world of quick answers. My students often want the work to be done, quickly and easily. They want to “google” it and have the task be over. They often are discouraged when they have to return to the task and add more, or when they simply get the wrong answer. They tend to experience it as failure, rather than part of an ongoing process.
Teaching them that the best work is rarely the first draft is one of my goals. I have to think of more ways to break down the steps of the learning, so that they can feel a sense of accomplishment with each one, and realize that the final product took a lot of work. I didn’t do this well this week. I assigned a project to my 8th grade US history class to research the city of Philadelphia and create a brochure on why it is a great city in which to live. I told them that we would send the best brochure to the Chamber of Commerce. I set up a list of research sites and sources as well as topics to investigate: economics, government; arts and culture, etc. They were to collect a wide variety of facts and then create the brochure. They had 3 classes and homework time for the project.
After one class, they were all working on the brochure. I could hardly wrestle them back to gathering facts about the city. The task, for them, was the brochure and completing that was where they were focused. The research was simply something to get done as fast as possible. Next time, I think that the research will be one task, distinct and unique, with conversations around that before moving on. Then when that is completed, and they have reflected on what they learned from the research process, then I will introduce the brochure. It will build on the research that way and not overwhelm it. Live and learn!
So the goal for me and for my students is to be full of “pep” and determination!