Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A New School Year

Student with unidentified insect
The 2018-2019 school year begins soon!  Every August I look forward to meeting my new group of students.  It is always exciting and a bit intimidating.  Although I've been teaching for over twenty years, each class holds the promise of new adventures and new struggles.  Each year I meet a new group of students with their own unique hopes and dreams for fourth grade.  I hope I don't let them down and that I can help them along their educational path.  Each year we have new curriculum and new learning targets.  All of these unknowns leave me a bit anxious during my last days of summer break.  That being said, there are also some deep truths about teaching and learning that don't change much over time.  Great thinkers have been sharing their knowledge about learning throughout the ages and they continue to inspire us with their truths.  Here are a few that come to mind. . .
"Tell me I forget, teach me I remember, involve me and I learn."  --Benjamin Franklin

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."  --Albert Einstein 

"Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent."  --Billy Graham

"Some things are true in spite of statistics and philosophy and tabulations.  Some things we know because we know them."  --Liberty Hyde Bailey, Universal Service, 1918

"There is no way to help a learner to be disciplined, active, and thoroughly engaged unless he perceives a problem to be a problem or whatever is to-be-learned as worth learning, and unless he plays an active role in determining the process of solution.  That is the plain, unvarnished truth, and if it sounds like warmed-over "progressive education," it is not any less true for it."   --Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, 1969

"Education is the lighting of a fire, not the filling of a pail." --WB Yeats 
There are many more quotes like these and they all point to truths about teaching.  None of them talk about curriculum, content or delivery.  They all point to something bigger and more universal.  Teaching is more than what we learned in graduate school or a trick or a performance or a chromebook.  It is more than the latest formulated curriculum or set of goals and objectives.  Teaching is an art.  And like art, it is always unique and takes many forms and shapes based on the students and the teacher and even the moment.  Sometimes I fail miserably.  Sometimes I'm amazed by what students are able to learn and discover.  But always it is a new adventure.

In these last days of August, there are many small projects that occupy me. . . setting up my classroom, gathering supplies, reacquainting myself with curriculum and planning the first few weeks of school.  The outdoor learning center needs attention.  There are weeds to pull and beds to mulch.  In addition, I'm raising about twenty monarchs (I will bring to school) that all need fresh milkweed on a daily basis.  And Harold, our class pet, needs to readjust and return to the classroom.  There are lots of things on my mind.  But mostly, I realize that in a few weeks my new students and I will embark on a new adventure.  Hopefully, it will be a year full of discovery, inspiration and joy.

To everyone returning to school, I hope that your next year is a great adventure!

Peace and Love