After watching the news this week, I feel disheartened. There seem to be people in our world intent on hate, terror and violence. Sometimes I even question if what we do matters.
Thankfully, my doubts don’t last long. My hope overrides my despair when I see how people come together in reaction to tragedy. Our students may face tragedy in their own lives one day. Their reactions to events may be shaped in part by the series of conversations and interactions we have with them during the brief time we spend in their lives.
Our work does matter. Our daily interactions with students – those seemingly small moments – they matter. The time we spend teaching communication and critical thinking, empathy and compassion, helping students understand themselves and their place in the world, that time matters, too.
Sadly, there will always be people who spread hate in the world; thankfully, there will be many more who spread love.
There are times that I have several weeks worth of ideas waiting for my blog post on Sunday. This week, I have nothing started and no immediate ideas. Even so, I begin writing. Will my nothingness lead to an idea? Will writing about having no ideas eventually spark one?
In actuality, our students often face this dilemma: I don’t know what to write. So instead of sitting and staring at the blank page, we use freewriting to get our pens or pencils moving.
Last week I introduced freewriting to three new classes. As I always do after a first freewrite experience, I asked the students how it felt to freewrite. “Great!” and “Fun!” are the most common responses I receive. But this time there were two answers that I hadn’t heard before. In a grade 4/5 class one student responded, “Challenging.” “Why challenging?” I asked. “Because my mind started going to a difficult topic and I wasn’t sure if I should write about it.” “And? Did you? Did you go there?” He smiled and said, “I did. It was hard but I did it.”
Another student in the same class answered, “Refreshing.” “Why refreshing?” I asked. “I just felt free. I wasn’t worried about getting my words on paper. I just wrote and wrote and wrote more than I ever do.”
So today, when I thought I had nothing to say, I wrote this post. And last week, three new classes of students broke through their hesitation and enjoyed their time writing. How refreshing!
The benefits of reading aloud to children are many! Pure enjoyment tops my list. Some books pull at the heartstrings, some give us something to ponder and some are pure fun. Kids giggle at the poems of Shel Silverstein, the stories of Robert Munsch and The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.
And the adults? They too can find enjoyment in reading out loud to children. Need proof? Watch this viral video of a Scottish grandma reading The Wonky Donkey to her grandson.
Oh! And the good news? The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith is now back in print!
A reflection on our gifts and graces is natural during the Thanksgiving weekend. Today, I am especially thankful for the presence of children in my life. When things are particularly hectic or stressful, it is my time with children – both family members and students – that grounds me, gives me purpose and lifts my mood.
How can you help but smile when listening to the innocent questions and endless stories of children? How can you possibly be grumpy when you receive smiles and hugs in excess? How can you ignore the beauty and splendour in our world when children continually point our attention towards it?
When it comes to living life, perhaps our children are the best teachers of all.