|Ann Marie Corgill|
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. –Roald Dahl
It was one of those glorious, southern, end-of-summer mornings. Before the busy-ness of the day. Before the second cup of coffee. Before August humidity took my breath, forced me off the patio, and sent me seeking an air-conditioned space.
It was then that I noticed a metaphor for education and life crawling across a rock in my tiny garden.
A snail had found his way to the happiness rock.
Mr. Snail on the happiness rock got me thinking about my teaching and learning with children.
Children’s school days need to make sense, to be filled with opportunities for play, passion, and purpose in an environment that doesn’t feel rushed. Their work and learning must be connected to the work and learning they will do for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, with overloaded curriculum binders and standards documents, pages of meaningless data collection, unreasonable state and federal mandates, and standardized testing pressure, we, their teachers, sometimes lose sight of what’s most important.
We forget to slow down and soak in the beautiful data that’s right in front of our eyes, and we forget to teach our students to do the same.
When we’re “racing to the top” in our classrooms, no one is winning, no one is truly learning, and I doubt anyone is happy.
If we don’t slow down, we’ll miss the ah-ha moments. If we don’t make time to ask our students what matters to them, we’ll miss their stories and their passions. We’ll miss their strengths and their struggles. We’ll miss the unique ways they solve problems, create new ideas, and collaborate with their peers. We’ll miss what we can learn from children so that in turn, we can teach them wisely and well.
Below you’ll find examples of the students’ daily plans, accomplishments, and reflections on their work and learning through this past week in fourth grade. I’m spending time reading and re-reading these pieces of student writing. Their words speak volumes about their social, emotional, and academic growth. From their words, I learn what’s in their heads…and what’s in their hearts, and this is the best data I could ever ask for as I prepare for a new week of teaching and learning with this group of children.
We have to slow down, prioritize, and make time for reflection for our students and ourselves. With an environment filled with possibility and support, daily tending and nurturing, and time to reflect and grow slowly, we can guarantee that our students will become forever learners who live happily ever after.