As a parent, I’m learning so much. Every day is a new adventure, and each day brings a new series of understandings and mistakes and opportunities and regrets. All of these experiences help me grow as a mother.
Today I looked around our living room and did a mental inventory of the cars, trucks, Legos, puzzles, stuffed animals, and books strewn about the room. I noticed my son was playing with a puzzle that I bought for him when he was only 8 or 9 months old, and now, at 21 months, he seems to really enjoy.
“Why did I buy that for him so long ago?” I wondered. “Why did I think he needed to rush into completing puzzles at such a young age?”
I thought next about the riding toys, wiffle ball bats, plastic bowling set and other outdoor play things outside on the porch. I remember when he received one of the riding toys how excited I was to watch him ride around on it. That was months ago, and he still isn’t that interested in riding around like I thought he might be.
Sometimes I think, “I can’t wait until he is older so he can do this or ride on the rides at the amusement park or hold a conversation with me.” And sure, those moments will be thrilling, but why am I wishing away the present? Too often, I am looking ahead, excited about the possibilities of his future, thereby neglecting to appreciate the now.
We do this in schools with our students, too. We’re constantly focused on what’s next instead of appreciating and acknowledging what’s going on right now, in front of us.
When kindergartners arrive, we focus on what they need to learn and be able to do so that they’re prepared for first grade. We don’t spend enough time cherishing them as 5 and 6-year old children, who bring a wealth of experiences with them, who desire to learn in new ways, ways that are appropriate for their right now, not for their next year.
When students move into the later elementary grades, we focus on preparing them for middle school. We need to ability group/switch for content/make them use a binder/complete projects this way/organize everything the way middle school would in order to prepare them for their futures. The same happens in middle school, high school, and even the collegiate level.
Am I saying we shouldn’t prepare kids to be successful in the next phases of their lives or not to challenge them? Of course not. But in doing so, in stressing what’s next, in allowing ourselves to succumb to the pressures of needing our kids to be more than what they are, we neglect to honor the needs of those children who sit in front of us presently.
As the school year begins, I challenge you to truly see who sits in front of you. To get to know and love each of your students, find out what they need presently, serve them graciously, and reap the rewards from the time you have to spend together.
I’m going to keep snuggling my baby as long as he’ll allow me to. When I’m exhausted, and my back hurts, and when I don’t want to carry him up the stairs, I’ll remember that at the moment, he needs me to hold him, and that one day, I won’t have that luxury.
2 Replies to “Blink and it’s over.”
Lyn, I totally love this post! Not just because it’s neat to read your writing from a teacher and a parent perspective, but also because you’re highlighting a problem that I often struggle with as a teacher. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been speaking to colleagues about a particular strategy/tool/activity/inquiry that I’ve tried with my students, and I hear, “Well I can’t do that this way because next year they’re going to need to ______________.” I’m all for thinking ahead. I’m all for being aware of upcoming expectations and how our expectations align year-to-year. But often, these kinds of concerns are not about expectations, but about teaching styles/approaches. Maybe what we do this year will help inspire others to try something new the following year. Maybe people don’t know about a better option, and maybe what we try, what we share, and what students share, will lead to a change of what’s always been. Maybe we need to worry a little less about what comes next because maybe what comes next will change based on what we do now.
Thanks for inspiring me to write down what I’ve been thinking for a while!
I can see how it can be frustrating and defeating to hear those remarks in response to the innovative things you’re working on in your classroom. And let’s not forget how much time we spend “preparing” kids for standardized TESTS! Precious classroom learning time wasted! Love this point you made: “Maybe we need to worry a little less about what comes next because maybe what comes next will change based on what we do now.” So true!