I weave a web. I attach a string here. I attach a string there. Some I leave for later. Some I cling to now. Some will never connect. Others will attach and connect in ways I never expect. I am at once random and manipulative in my craft. Sometimes I pursue. Other times I wait. But I am at all times an opportunist. I take advantage when I can, a truth for which I bear equal parts shame and pride. For it is not always easy to reconcile one’s manipulation of others. And though I’d like to believe that my intentions are always honorable and selfless, I am not always sure, for the line is thin. Either way, yesterday, I took advantage.
It was my first bad day of the year. And it won’t be my last. As to why, the list is long. But suffice to say, the parts equal a telling sum: I am human. Most days, I can stave off this annoying truth by donning a Superman shirt, rising to the occasion for my kids, summoning super-human energy and patience for those I serve. But some days, the shirt doesn’t matter. Some days, I don’t even try. Yesterday, was one of those days, and my spinnerets had a mind of their own.
First thread. Smiles and Frowns. I shared a frown, revealing that it was on off day for me.
Second thread. An apology. I apologized to the kids for not having their essays done, remarking that my actions never caught up with my intentions over the weekend.
Third thread. Journey Journal. On most days, we reflect on academic things. Yesterday, I asked the kids to title their entries, “Advice.” I then prompted them to consider and share what advice they would give to someone who was having a bad day. I, next, asked them to underline a key phrase and share aloud with the class. Selfishly, I needed to hear it. It mattered to me coming from them. Consciously, I knew I was not the only one who would benefit, for I was not the only one to share a Monday frown. In truth, I was one of many.
Fifth period presented an unexpected thread. Fifth is after lunch, and it is not always my most productive class. Lovely kids, but kids all the same, and sometimes, especially on a Monday, they are not my most motivated kiddos. Yesterday, was no exception. I gave a few gentle reminders throughout the period to get to work. “Gentle” in my mood was a good choice, for it is not fair to project my mood onto the kids, especially in ways that would be out of character. It’s not their fault that I was grumpy. But seeing an opportunity, I changed the Journey Journal prompt to, “Imagine a good-natured teacher who after some time the kids began to take advantage of his good will, and despite his gentle nudgings to get to work, the students continued to waste their time…” I then asked them what advice they would give that teacher for how to motivate his kiddos. Their responses were golden. Message sent. Message received. Thread connected.
Fourth thread. Mindset Mantra. Our mantras shifted to beginning with “we” this week. Our first mantra, “We are valued members of this community,” was resonant, even if only unconsciously as we heard ourselves and others say that we mattered. We have been speaking this in different iterations for weeks now (“you,” then “I,” now “we”).
Fifth thread. Sappy Sy Rhyme. I have been doing this for two weeks now. I end each period with a sappy, want-you-to-know-you-matter message. I want to have the last word, and I want that last word to stick as the wheel turns and the twenty-three hour countdown begins till I see them next.
From Student Letter.
I hope you discover the value of community and the power of empathy. Though our learning journeys are unique, we all travel similar paths. When we come to realize that through our similar trails we share a bond, we begin to understand that we are not alone, that we can learn with others, that we can learn from others. When we connect with others, we learn. When we connect with others, we can understand. We will connect. We are a community.
From “Roles, Routines, Rights, and Responsibilities.
Role #2: Valued Community Member. This is your second most important role. At present, many of us are not well-acquainted, but we are in this together either way. And as we will spend a lot of time together both struggling and celebrating over the days to come, my hope is that we establish a community that is rich in relationships and in excess of empathy. We are a community.
Yesterday, I needed the kids. I needed their understanding. I needed their empathy. It was about me. I cannot deny that. But, too, I think it’s bigger than that. Though it is a web I weave, it is also a net I build, a community I create to catch us when we fall, to support us when we need it. And we’re all gonna need it, even those of us who hide behind t-shirts.
I didn’t “teach” anything yesterday as I sat at my desk scrambling to get kids feedback on their narratives. But I do think there were opportunities to learn, opportunities to learn things that won’t be on the state assessment come spring, but things that will be on their horizons as they step through the human experience, now and later, threads in their webs. In the end, our web.
Along today’s trail we will…
…begin with Smiles and Frowns.
…continue working on our writing.
…reflect in our Journey Journals.
…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.
Happy Tuesday, all.