I’ve been thinking a lot about my consulting work. I’ve been fortunate to be working in schools with dedicated teachers who want to deepen their instructional practices and do what’s best for their students. I stand with them, shoulder to shoulder, as we explore best practices, study specific learning opportunities, and reflect upon not only the teaching, but the learning. Some of the questions we ask ourselves are:
Did the students ‘get it?’
Were they engaged?
What do I know now that I didn’t know before?
They’ll ask me what I think and I respond by asking them what they think. I’m interested in hearing what they see as their strengths and where they felt challenged. Interestingly, many will be a little noncommittal. They may say it went “OK” or they’ll shrug their shoulders and indicate that it wasn’t that good. This is what teachers do. We don’t sing our own praises. We harshly evaluate ourselves.
We are our own worst critics.
I’ll ask them again, where did they shine, because I know they did. Where was a spark noticed? How could s/he tell that students were (or were not) engaged in the lesson? Why might that have happened? And most importantly, what will happen tomorrow? These questions lead to deeper conversations, and for that I am grateful. We are learning and delving and questioning and thinking about our teaching craft and the students. Great things happen when we linger with our thoughts.
Magic can happen.
But, what do I mean by that, “Magic can happen”? Let’s think about it. Teaching is hard. We all know that. Our hearts break, our frustrations pile up, yet, we show up each day and do it again. More expectations and mandates are piled on our plates. We have bad days, weeks, months, and yet we go into the classroom and we teach. Every. Day. We search for new lessons, new ways of instructing, new materials that may finally grab our students’ attention. We talk to colleagues and administrators. Youtube videos are viewed for guidance, ideas, learning.
The search never stops.
Why is that? Why do educators with 10, 15, 20+ years of experience under their belts show up for my workshops? Why do they invite me to teach in their classrooms? I don’t know the answer to those questions, what I do know is that I am grateful and honored and in awe that I can work with each one of them. They trust me and I hold and protect that fragile belief in my heart. It is because they believe, no, they know that there is a way to connect with their students and they must find it. They won’t stop searching.
In Cynthia Rylant’s The Van Gogh Cafe (1998; 2006). Cynthia speaks of the magic in the old theater walls that is now the Van Gogh Cafe. I think of the magic in each of the classroom walls and though “Magic is a powerful word and often misused” (p.2), it lives in these school house walls, where students walk in and find these remarkable teachers who see them. They hear them, they teach them, they believe in them. The magic is nestled in the walls, of that I am sure, but how does it get there? It happens everyday when these teachers walk into their classrooms and begin to teach.
Magic happens and I am incredibly fortunate to witness it everyday I am invited into these classrooms.
Magic can and does happen. It is in the hands, hearts, and minds of our teachers. It is breathtaking work and I am so very fortunate to witness it.
Rylant, C. 1996; 2006) The Van Gogh Cafe. Boston, MA: HMH Books for Young Readers