All the newness a new school year brings is exciting. I felt it like the buzz of a bee yesterday. The new school supplies, outfits, and friendships. It's a reconnecting to what gets pushed to the side in the glory of summer. Suddenly we are making new habits, waking up early, and waiting for the weather to cool off.
Yesterday, I began my first year as a true faculty member. My crisp license is proof that I have finally reached the milestone I have wanted. I spent the week prior preparing lesson plans and decorating my windowless room in cheery colors. I rearranged the desks multiple times, sitting in the seats myself so I could feel sure that each student would have an unobstructed view of the board.
I taught a lesson yesterday in each of my five classes on value. I began the lesson by holding up a five dollar bill. If you ever want to get the undivided attention of 8th graders, hold up money. My question was, "If I were to give away this five dollars, which of you would want it?" In each class almost every hand shot up. I admired their enthusiasm. The ones who didn't raise their hand showed me an expression of immediate skepticism, which I also admire. I then respond with, "Before handing it over, there’s something I must do." Furiously I crumpled it, and ask again, "Who still wants this bill?" "And what if I do this?" I threw it against the wall, letting it fall to the floor, kick it, stamp on it and again hold up the bill – all dirty and crumpled. I repeat my original question. Guess what, they still want the money. Even after I pretend to wipe my nose with it, cough on it, and remind them it's been on the floor--in a school. Then I asked, "Why do we still want this money?" In a choral response they answer, "Because it's still five dollars."
I then told them, “Many times in our lives, we are crushed, stamped on, kicked, maltreated, offended; however, in spite of this, we are still worth the same.” It's very quiet in the classroom at this point. So, I add, "How do you think our class, our school, would look different if we truly believe they matter and their peers matter?" I read the following, which is from a blog that offered this activity to his class the following:
"If we believe that we matter, we will be brave enough to share our ideas and answers, because we know that getting a wrong answer doesn’t make us any less of a person. If we believe that we matter, then we have to believe that our learning matters, and we will take the time to ask questions when we don’t understand something. If we believe our classmates matter, we will listen when they share without interrupting or making sarcastic comments that make them feel unimportant. If we believe that kid sitting alone in the cafeteria matters, we will take the time to say hi and introduce ourselves. If we believe that people in the world matter, we will believe that cultural differences are good and different, rather than just wrong, we will look at people from other languages and cultures as interesting and unique, because if they have value, then the things that are important to them should be important to us too."
After this reading it is very quiet. I then told them that as cheesy as all this sounds, as High School Musical as I may be making our school out to sound, it is possible. We can buy into value. We can make it one of our habits of this new school year. It isn't easy, but I remember the quote "nothing worthwhile is easy." What truth.
This school year, I am scared, excited, humbled, and tired already. I don't want to make mistakes, but I know I will because if I don't I probably am not learning the hard lessons life wants us to learn. There will be rewards though. Students already say hello to me in the hallway. One student emailed me an eBook she's authoring. It's 85 typed pages! What a dream come true!
The superintendent welcomed us to the new year and reminded us that teaching is the hardest job we will ever love. I think he's right already.
Here's to a great school year. Thanks for reading.