May and June are crazy!
At a time when we would love to be able to reflect on what each of our students has learned, how far they’ve come, where they’re going, there are too many projects to finish, concerts to rehearse for, fieldtrips to squeeze in and it’s easy to rush through activities (even more than usual) to check them off the list before the end of the year.
We need to remember to breathe. Pay attention. You never know what is going to really matter to someone.
I’ve been teaching a noon hour arts program for primary students each term this year. I keep it as student-directed as possible. This term they wanted to focus on animals and we decided to work on some poetry. Some of them hadn’t had much experience or exposure to poetry, but I read them a few different poems and after a bit of discussion suggested they focus on a feeling and see if they could get an image in their mind to write about. One girl asked if the poem had to be about animals. “No, just focus on the feeling for now. It can be about anything you want.” I had the kids working together at tables and she asked if she could move to a desk by herself. “Sure, if that will be better for you.” I didn’t know this girl well and I was getting curious.
Here’s what she wrote:
The wind is so stiff
I can’t really tell you
Because it would scare you if I told you
I guess this is just how the wind howls
My heart is so sad
I need a baby.
She had illustrated it with a weeping ghost woman hovering over a tombstone holding a wrapped up baby.
I asked her about her poem and picture. “My mom’s aunt just died. She always wanted children and died without having any. I never even got to meet her.”
I was awestruck at how this six year old had been able to channel a life story into a few words and a pencil sketch, how a woman she had never met had inspired such a strong emotional reaction and how if I had said, “Yes, today we’re all writing about animals,” she would have sat down and written a poem about an animal instead.
I’m not saying “I’m so awesome I always let my students decide what to work on and look at the results we get.” I’m saying I could have so easily missed that and kept on task and had a neat, tidy project at the end of the day. And I guess that wouldn’t have been the end of the world either, but it meant something to her, it meant something to me and to everyone I’ve talked to about it. It was a little bit of magic in a regular day of getting things done.
We’ve only got a month left. We’re all counting down. But slow down when you can because the magic might happen on your beach fieldtrip or when you’re lining everyone up for the last assembly of the year.