Sunday, April 24, 2016

Relish in the Simple, Day to Day Pleasures!

My simple, but sweet success!
Yesterday, I baked banana bread.  That's right.  I stood on my own two feet, mixed the eggs, almond flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, coconut oil, and bananas all by myself!  I even mashed the bananas on my own prior to adding them to the mix. My legs held my body steady and strong in the kitchen for an entire 30 minutes while I was preparing everything for the bread. Now, this may seem like a trivial activity to most.  After all, banana bread doesn't help solve climate change or homelessness, nor does it win elections. However, it makes me happy.  Making the bread all on my own yesterday especially made my heart sing with joy. 

Almost a month ago, I underwent hip surgery.  For the first three weeks following surgery, I depended on my loved ones to take care of all of my day to day tasks- they did my laundry, cooked (or ordered) my food, moved my car to avoid San Francisco's street sweepers, cleaned my kitchen and bathroom, walked up and down the three flights of stairs in my building to check my mail, bring up packages, and take out the recycling.  They even helped me move on and off the couch, which was rather painful during those first few days post surgery.  So, as you can see, the independent act of being able to make banana bread purely from scratch was not only joyous, but also it was so incredibly satisfying!  Plus, if I do say so myself, my gluten-free, paleo-friendly creation was quite delicious!

It's now been 26 days since surgery.  I'm finding more joy in simple pleasures now than perhaps I ever had prior to undergoing surgery.  Three days ago, I independently drove my car five blocks to the local grocery store.  This was an extremely satisfying venture!  Roaming those grocery store aisles on my own without crutches was practically euphoric.  Not only is independently grocery shopping a happy occasion, but also the simple acts of showering, pulling on my own clothes piece by piece (might I add, clothes that do not fall under the category or sweat pants or pajamas), blowdrying my hair, applying a little make-up, and putting my shoes on without any help have all turned into pleasurable, fulfilling, day to day activities. I'm noticing the joy and fulfillment the simple pleasures are bringing to my day to day life more than I ever have before.

I bet you're asking, what on earth does making banana bread and getting dressed have to do with education?  Well, everything. 

During my first few years as a teacher, I highly valued the big, time consuming, labor intensive projects that required a great amount of scaffolding, assistance, and hours in class (and, sadly, often times hours at home for students and parents).  My
students, typically with the help of adults, created models of the solar system from found objects, rehearsed for months to perform plays, researched topics for weeks on end to create their own nonfiction picture books, and engaged in many other similar long term projects. While I still believe that large projects such as these do hold some value, I now see that the real difference and change for children comes in the form of day to day independent successes, pleasures, and moments of joy.  After all, the big, huge projects that require a great amount of adult input typically do not make that large of a difference in a child's learning and strategy/skill development.  While these projects may look impressive on display during Open House, the consistent, day to day, imbedded habits and practices of both teachers and students make a much larger impact on a child's education and happiness over time.

As teachers, coaches, specialists, and administrators, I propose a challenge for all of us, myself included.  I challenge us to decrease the value we assign to large, time-intensive projects, and rather, let's increase the importance of, and find the joy in the consistent day to day success and practices that all add to the growth and learning of all the children in all of our classrooms.

I challenge all of us to find joy in... 
The small steps that matter. Let's find joy when that one student, the one who has a tough time finding a book to independently read, finally settles in to read that one special book that grabs him for a solid 20 minutes! Let's joyfully notice and build on that small block so it has the potential to become the foundation for a life of loving reading!

I propose that we notice success because...  
The group of students who have been friends for years ask the new girl in class to sit with them at lunchtime. I hope all of us can quietly smile and feel a huge success as teachers in knowing that those girls chose kind (thank you, RJ Palacio).  A simple act like this may seem small to some, but for that new girl in class, it is probably something she'll remember for the rest of her life.

I dare us all to measure our effectiveness as teachers not when the test data comes in, but rather when... 
The entire class is excitedly buzzing with curiosity and anticipation while asking questions about a current read aloud.  Let's sit back and recognize that this buzz over books was intentionally created through consistent teaching over time. This kind of buzz doesn't happen in isolation.  A buzz like this sets the stage for more and more talks about reading, which encourages more and more kids to independently find that book they just can't put down, which will promote the buzz outside of class as well!

I offer an alternative... 

Let's all start to recognize and find fulfillment in the day to day pleasures of being teachers.  All teaching is hard- really, really hard.  Good teaching is intentional.  Great teaching is both intentional and consistent.  Inspired teaching is intentional, consistent, and joyful despite the difficulties that often arise. Friends, I challenge all of us to notice and take pleasure in the small successes that we create as teachers in our classrooms and schools every single hour of every single day. It's the little things that truly matter and make a difference in the life of a child- and in the life of a teacher, too.

See, I told you that making banana bread has everything to do with education!  

Happy Teaching, Friends!

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