I don’t do maxi dresses (I’m too short) and I’m not really in love with granola (blame the granola binge of ’06), but the way I talk to my class sometimes, I’m sure I’m labeled the ‘hippie teacher’. We talk about feelings and goals and quotes that inspire us. We talk about why we are learning and how we are learning it and what we can do with the knowledge we are gaining. We sometimes talk about how what we learn in school just isn’t for school, it’s for life- that every piece of information we gather is to help us create a foundation we can stand on later in life. And sometimes we just talk about how hilarious Calvin and Hobbes is.
So it came as no surprise the other day when a conversation about rights and responsibilities trickled down and twisted it’s way into a conversation about what we believe in. With ten minutes left before the bell, the kids took out paper and wrote down anything and everything they believed in 100%. It could be silly or serious or funny. It could be about religion or school or family or friends or Calvin and Hobbes (there’s a C & H fanatic in my class and he cracks me up on the regular. I’m thinking of a good alias name that suits him because his original name is so* far out).
One of the best things about being a teacher (besides July and August- actually, I don’t really believe that but I know a lot of non-teachers always make that comment in their head so I thought I’d beat them to the punch, hoo ha!) is that you get to read all the thoughts of your students. Seriously, if you have an open class, it’s like reading the diary of 15 inspired minds. Sure, sometimes you read pages of stuff like this: “I whent too the stor nd ete a peese ov chaklet cacke whith mi mom” and you brain feels like it’s on acid and you just want to insert a Jack Daniels iv after dechipering it, but a lot of the time, most of the time, you discover that if you let kids be brilliant, they are.
I was thinking about this as I was skimming through what they wrote, giggling as someone told me that they believe “Comic books are as good as regular books, maybe even better because regular books even the little baby ones don’t have as many pictures as comic books do”, when I stopped and read what one of my favourite grade 4 students, Abby, had written. It was only one sentence but it made me smile. She wrote:
I believe in great big things.
Abby is not the loudest kid in my class (that’s the C & H fanatic), nor is she the most academically gifted but she’s the one student in my class who is always working. Always. Like, if a circus was right outside our window and Hannah Montana was putting on a free show and handing out chocolate bars, Abby would be just as excited as the other kids but she would keep working. So I knew that this answer, these six words weren’t a cop out, a quick way to complete the task at hand, these words were what she was feeling. Although her answer might not have been as specific as her classmates, nor as long- I do know she labored on it, and her response made me so excited for this school year and all the great big things that are ahead of us.
And if that makes me sound like the hippie teacher, I’m okay with that. No, I’m excited to be that.
I’ve shared my “I believe” list in the past. What do you believe?
* You hear it here first. “Far out” is making a come back.