Monday, June 24, 2013

Under Every Rock, In every Corner, Beneath Every Couch 
Do you ever feel like life at almost 42 is starting to make sense? Oh, what? You are not 42? Well in my life right now it seems like under every rock, in every corner, beneath every couch I am finding the same thing being whispered to me over and over. I can no longer ignore it. Even the big themes of Mr. Holland's Opus and  William Ayers book, To Teach: The Journey Of A Teacher point me in the same direction I have been going for a while.  They are not the just the themes of the book, not just the themes of the movie, they are the themes that have been playing on my heart.


  • People Matter
  • Passionate Teaching Matters

When people matter, you are including the voices of stakeholders in your corporation or in my case, the classroom. You are including student voice, parent voice, community voice, administration voice and well as teacher voice.   Ayers says,

 "Parents are often too unwelcome in schools, and we too often dismiss their insights as subjective and overly involved." 

Yes, people matter and parents matter. Their voice matters in the classroom to me. They are a blessing and they are welcome in my room.
Ayers goes on throughout the chapter on "Seeing the Student" to give multiple ways that we can demonstrate in our teaching that people matter, that students matter. Seeing the student not with our eyes, but with our heart. I liked this quote from Mr. Holland's Opus when Glenn Holland says, 

"Playing music is supposed to be fun. It's about heart, it's about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful, and it's not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page, I can't teach you that other stuff." 

Let me say it this way. Anyone can teach, it is actually easy to do. The curriculum tells you what to do. However, it takes a really special teacher who can reach out across the curriculum, in spite of the curriculum and touch the heart, see the student's heart and speak to that. People matter. Every voice matters. Every last one. In a conversation on Twitter a few nights ago on June 22, my PLN was discussion passion. I wrote,

 "First touch the heart, then touch the mind." 

Then  as fast as a Twitter minute Barry Saide replied,  

"Teach them to think with head, feel with heart, decide with soul." 

Here, Mr. Saide combines the first theme of my life with the second in such a eloquent and beautiful way. 

The second theme is that of the passionate teacher. It comes from an understanding that there are eight ways to be smart and we are not all smart the same way. We celebrate our classroom differences when we understand how God made us all unique and special, yet put us together to learn from each other for the common good, learning together in a classroom.


That is the ticket out the door. A passionate teacher says to a student like Holland says to his in the movie Mr. Holland's Opus, 

"Play the Sunset."

What does the sunset look like to you? 
On my dresser I have a sunset taken here in Isanti with the farm fields and the glorious sky. Sunsets are stunning, but there are so many different colors to the sunset. A passionate teacher lets all the colors come out. Every last one. Another great quote comes from Principal Jacobs: 

"A teacher is two jobs. Fill young minds with knowledge, yes. But more important, give those minds a compass so that that knowledge doesn't go to waste. Now, I don't know what you're doing with the knowledge, Mr. Holland, but as a compass, you're stuck."  

Are you stuck? Did you loose your compass? We all need help unsticking ourselves a bit along the way. Ayers does a great job at that as well as does Dave Burgess in Teach Like A Pirate. 
 I had the opportunity to wade into genius hour at school with my fourth grade small group.  The purpose behind it comes from Joy Kirr,  who is part of my PLN. She got me hooked. During genius hour, you spend  of your time with your students letting them seek out their passion as well as to manifest their passion to you in some tangible form. Your job as a teacher is to coach them along the way and encourage them when they are stuck. When they ask a question, ask that question right back...engage their mind. I had a great time with this during our testing season in the spring right up to the end of the year. 

What I learned through the students passions included wolves, history of gaming, about anacondas, and Stellar Blue Jays. They learned about it on their own and sought a medium to tell me about it. I received two paintings, a home made book of hand drawn graphics and a time line. It was precious. 

When I combine this with Angela Maiers idea of student voice and her big idea, I will see an explosion of awesomeness! I will do this again next year even with my firsties. I can't wait! It will be different, it will be VERY different, but I can't wait to see what they want to know and how they want to tell me. 

People matter. Passion matters. Keep that close to your heart and reach out to your PLN when you are stuck. I will close with this quote from Ayers in his book

"Staying open to mystery, to the recognition that there is always more to know and more to be, is to allow students their full humanity and to stay alive as a teacher.

This is what I am finding under every rock, in every corner, beneath every couch.