I gauge time from the milestones in my life. I would say, if I can still recall them now, they have had an even more profound effect on my life then I imagined. There have of course been many personal milestones, but today I reflect on those that had to do with me and school. Thinking about this I wonder about the impact we have on our students and how they gauge their time with us vis a vis their passage of time. Have our interactions with them become milestones that influence how they see themselves?
Here are but a few milestones I share.
I remember running away to school. My best friend was starting kindergarten but I didn’t make the cut off date so I decided to just go with her (in neighborhood schools we walked with friends and a parent or two) and sat in any empty chair. All to soon I was discovered and had to deal with my disappointment. A year later I sat in that chair! I kept this memory close to my heart when school became challenging. I cherished that this was the place I ran to.
I remember in my 5th Grade year, a classmate and I collaborated on a contest about nature (a forerunner of Earth Day) and our slogan was chosen to represent our school. We met the Mayor of Montreal and my friends and teachers were so proud of us, as we were! Our slogan: A Tree Is A Life, Save It! A wonderful shining moment in time. A milestone/memory that kept me going when it seemed like some school work wouldn’t let me breath. But my teacher helped me focus on my strengths; way before any research on that topic. An intuitive understanding from a teacher that knew what her students needed.
I remember when I was in 6th or 7th Grade I went to a very small school. One of the classrooms had special needs children. These students had varying degrees of hearing loss. They all sat at desks with cumbersome hearing paraphernalia. I was a good kid who at times struggled in school (this was the year after my father passed away, a milestone discussion for another time). As a reward for good work & behavior I was allowed to spend some recess time with these students. How wonderful was my time here! I communicated with dance and pantomime. We all looked forward to our time together. Here again was a teacher who sensed what I needed: a place to shine.
I remember a winter sing in highschool. How I loved the Christmas Carols; knew them by heart (Public School, we only sang Christmas Carols; including other cultural songs not on the radar then, but not an issue either). And I sang my heart out! One year a teacher suggested I just mouth the words and not really sing. I was devastated and embarrassed. My only saving grace was she whispered this to me and to a few others, as it turned out. But I loved this special event and I forgot, so I sang. But I never forgot that moment. Was a good voice really what mattered here? And years later when faculty and staff gathered for our traditional Monday morning assembly before Winter Break, we sang songs that recognized many holidays this time of year. I didn’t just mouth the words, either.
I remember a particular difficult time when I was around 15 and needed gum surgery. It all went well but I needed to rinse my mouth periodically. It was all arranged with the vice principal. I never understood why one of my teachers made it so difficult for me to quietly go out of the room and just as quietly and quickly return. His rule in order to be excused you needed to ask permission. And no exceptions. The humiliation was deep but my resilience was stronger. I asked, went through his procedure, and then returned. That milestone/memory I still carry with me today which reminds me of the importance of kindness and relationships that show we care.
I thought of this today as I read more tweets and see the focus on Twitter chats about reflections on the end of year; what went well, what didn’t, any changes and what will we (teacher/leader/principal) focus on for next year. So I come to how what we do as teachers effects our students in ways we can’t imagine. Do we understand the learning includes (beyond the academics), trust, relationships, emotions, self-worth, attitude, mindset, joyful endeavors and resilience? Where do our interactions with students, on this continuum of learning, impact them? Will they too mark milestones? How will these milestones influence how they feel about school, education and themselves in the years to come?
Winter Sing: Pre 2002 Me (back row) with the big smile singing my heart out!