Following a long day of teaching and meetings, I sat down at my desk with a cup of tea and picked up Picnic, Lightning written by former U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins to unwind. Luxuriating in solitude, I stumbled across the poem, “Some Days” which conjured up further reflections on my teaching.
Yesterday, I shared my worries over whether or not I have prepared my students for their forthcoming presentation with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve and feel successful.
Reviewing my post, I was reminded that I need to give up my tendency to control my classroom environment. Too often, I am this teacher…
“Some days I put the people in their places at the table,/bend their legs at the knees,/if they come with that feature,/and fix them into the tiny wooden chairs.
All afternoon they face one another,/the man in the brown suit,/the woman in the blue dress,/perfectly motionless, perfectly behaved.”
I fool myself into thinking that if students are facing instruction, and if they are behaved, they are indeed learning. Of course, I realize there is much more to teaching than “perfectly motionless, perfectly behaved students.” And really, truth be told, I can relate to the students that are restless in mind and body. I am that student myself, which may be why I demand attention.
Other days, I am a different teacher…
“…I am the one/ who is lifted up by the ribs,/then lowered into the dining room of a dollhouse/to sit with the others at the long table.”
Today, I sat at the table amongst my students. As I listened to them interacting and working on their proposal, reassurance washed over me that they certainly will be ready for the ‘big’ presentation next week.
One student asked my advice on which image I thought would best represent their information and then went on to offer reasons why she thought the second image would be better.
Another student asked if they could choose an alternative way to represent data to help persuade the ‘panel of experts’ of their country’s needs.
Yet another student approached, telling me his group would need to rewrite parts of their proposal because some of the data didn’t support their argument, and would it be okay if they looked for more information. Other groups were asking for feedback or clarification.
As I listened to the conversations around the ‘table’, I was relieved to know students are working their very best to produce a product they can feel proud of.
At the end of his poem, Collins asks his readers…
“…how would you like it/if you never knew from one day to the next if you were going to spend it/striding around like a vivid god,/your shoulders in the clouds,/or sitting down there amidst the wallpaper,/staring straight ahead with your little plastic face?”
I know I prefer to sit at the table with my students.