I discovered quickly teaching was about learning more than it was about teaching. Teaching and learning form a paradox. I taught a Grade 4 class for the first four months of my teaching career. What did I learn in those four months?
Students want adults to care about them. This came about in an odd fashion. I wanted students to learn and insisted they complete homework. One particular student rarely did. The result was he stayed after school for a 1/2 hour for help. It only took a few minutes and he would ask for help. He would stand by the desk where he remained for the duration. Once there, he rarely needed my help. What he seemed to need was the feeling an adult cared enough to take time, help him, and, more importantly, be there specifically for him.
Students want adults to know them and eagerly share their stories. When I told them I coached and played various sports, they seized the opportunity and recounted their exploits and activities. I listened during lunch, at recess on the playground, and during class while they shared about their lives. I learned about their families, vacations, and pets. Part of caring was letting them tell me their stories knowing they were heard.
Students wanted to know who I was. My father-in-law passed away that year after a long illness. When I knew I would be away, I sat down with the students, told them about my loss, and I would be away, but I was coming back. The last point was important to them. I was someone important to them, they wanted to know I was coming back, and that I was OK. They wanted to care about adults too, and my story helped made that possible.
Students want to have fun. One day I noticed two large rocks on a classroom counter and asked what they were doing there. A student informed me they were for the rocks and minerals unit in the Science. I returned to my instruction, but after a few minutes, I paused and asked, “Has anyone seen the Rolling Stones?” No one had, but I insisted I had and could produce them live at that very moment. The students doubted me. I picked up the rocks, rolled them across the floor, and proudly proclaimed, “There are the Rolling Stones!” Every time an adult came in the room, the students insisted I produce the Rolling Stones for our visitors. They loved coming to school. It was fun.
I wonder how often teachers sit down and recall the ways children taught them? I try now and then. I come away feeling good about what we can learn from the ones we teach.