Why yes, the headline refers to Van Morrison’s hit, which you can listen to here. It’s been an alarming three months since I sat down to ponder my education, but I had my reasons. I spent 205(!) hours working the some seriously amazing middle school students. My college coursework broke me for about a week in the middle of the semester and I had to hike my way back to the summit, sick and tired. All while planning a wedding and working 20 or so hours at my part time job. I had to learn a few hard lessons this semester. The great thing is what I did learn can be connected to my future students and classroom. The best part? I’ll still be learning next semester. The greatest illustration I have managed to come up with about what life is like (especially for college students) is that you are like the local highway system – always under construction and never really finished. You’re always going to need help from others to patch up your hurts, your stress and your pain. And you’ll never be perfect or know everything.
I learned plenty from my students. I learned that strength looks different in each kid. I learned that even in a place where it looks like everyone is the same, the diversity of ideas, hopes, dreams and beliefs will warm your heart for the future of your community and your country. I learned that kids struggle just as much as adults with life, love and the rest – and at times they’re just as scared as we are. But I also learned of the great courage and strength that rests within this small souls – that they look at the world in ways we’ve forgotten. That they care for so many things – great and small. And that sometimes all it takes to settle the storm in their world is Twenty One Pilots playing in a classroom. I learned that they do want to learn – and that sometimes it takes us stepping into their world for a brief moment to make a hail Mary pass that, when it works, connects like a 4th and down play of desperation. And the students go wild, metaphorically.
I learned that I have much more to learn about learning. I discovered that some students respond to me while others don’t – and that’s OK. I just have to find out how to reach the non responsive one in a different way again and again until the spark hits rock and we get a fire that threatens to consume the student’s passion. That each of us has something we love. Be it writing, drawing, dancing, playing a instrument, riding a horse, or reading everything in the world – each of our students has a thing. We need to find that thing. We’re like Indiana Jones seeking the treasure of engaging with our students. Eventually we find it. It might take three (four if you count ‘Crystal Skull’) movies and a lotta hi-jinks, but it’s possible.
In a few weeks I’ll be stepping into a high school classroom. I’ll be the rookie, again. Getting to know names. Figuring out the lay of the land. Understanding how the school works. Discovering a new group of students. Missing my old ones. And learning. Lots of learning. My challenge to you is this – how can you be a life long learner? Take a step back and think about your life and/or your career. How are you open to learning new things? Experiencing new perspectives? Willing to give up you precious block or piece of cheese and let someone show you how to use it better?
We all need to realize how big the world is, how small we are within it and how we can make the biggest difference in the lives of those we work with, go to school with, spend time with and live with – discovering what we can learn from each other. Here’s to doing a better job of all of that in 2017!