Most recently, I had the pleasure of listening to my freshman class give informational speeches. Simply put, they were phenomenal. My role is to listen, critique, give encouragement and feedback, but I found myself just being a comfortable audience member, taking in their knowledge and able to relax as they had the time well under control. What a pleasure to not only hear their speeches but also to be assured that we have some fabulous adults on the way to our community. They’re articulate, caring people who have a keen eye on the world. Sharp and smart, these kids give me enormous confidence and I trust them completely – not only in my classroom but in their future roles.
In other classes we’re reading novels and I see their wheels actively turning. My 8th graders thought they had a pretty good idea of what went on during WWII in Europe, but as we read, layers upon layers of stories are just waiting to be discovered. They often begin with, “You mean they…?” when hearing about mistreatment of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust and learning about the lengths Hitler and his ilk went to dominate the world. I can see their mental appetites whet and they eagerly go home to research other heroes who took a stand against evil. In Sophomore English we just finished The Grapes of Wrath. At the beginning of our reading I told them, “You might love this book; you might hate it, but you certainly won’t forget it.” We found ourselves experiencing both emotions while reading it but oh, have we learned! Beyond the story is always something more (and more and more) and with a little poking, I heard their insights just yesterday. One student put his finger right on the pulse of the novel when he made connections that many adults wouldn’t have. With delight, I praised him. Yes! For years I’ve been reading with these kids and slowly showing them how to read fiction with their Christian eyeballs and to hear their insights as we sifted through a truly sad story, was heart-warming. (See what you’re missing?!?)
Then there are those moments when I get to learn from them. I had the pleasure to see kindness in action when a student was feeling overwhelmed with a new concept. Before I could reach her, the girl sitting next to her gently said, “It’s okay, you’ll get it. Here, let me show you.” Some days, an astute student will ask me a question that makes me re-think how I’m presenting something and I’m so thankful. I must teach for how they learn, not necessarily in the way that I think will be more effective, but in a way that will actually help them grasp the concept. Thankfully, they’re patient with me.
Beyond that are invitations to games, goodbye waves before they leave for the day, a hearty laugh at one of my puns…life is good. So I gladly sit in the front row, facing them, but also taking in all the goodness that sits in front of me. Kids who are capable learners in so many ways…but more than that, they’re really cool people!
by Sue Likkel