This is one of the best jobs in the world! Amid the constant noise in the education community of standardized testing, college placement, and social pressures for more, more, more…there remains the magic connection of trust and inspiration between a pupil and teacher.
Every once in a while I’m able to dive in at a deep level and experience a day as our students do. Today, I was able to spend the day as a 5th grader. Now, I have the benefit of a more developed brain and a better sense of myself than I did when I was in elementary school, but there are unmistakable qualities that I could tell even our students knew, felt, and appreciated. I now drive myself to school and did not have to wait in the car line to be picked up by my mom or big brother, but I was able to experience just about everything else, and I wanted to share some observations with you.
First of all, 5th grade is a transition time for our students – and dare I say, a stressful year for them. They know the step to 6th grade is coming soon and what I witnessed was amazing. That pressure did not manifest itself as fear, but rather anticipation that made them sharper. When asked what they liked about 5th grade, they eagerly beamed, “We love how you let us get out of the box with our thinking." “The math is really hard, (giggles) that is getting us ready for 6th grade math." “I like Makers’ Monday because it lets me be creative in a way that I know will help me solve problems next year.” I was amazed and proud of these and the 15 or so other insightful, mature, and meaningful statements coming from these 10 and 11-year-old Marauders.
Secondly, I want to praise our teachers. In a seamless and well-rehearsed handoff of homeroom, math, science, snack, social studies, physical education, reading, lunch, recess, reading aloud, grammar, computers and drama…and that was just Monday…these loving and talented professionals steward these students toward higher learning and greater confidence. In learning how to subtract fractions, we reinforce how to be patient and collaborate together. In learning about Fort Ticonderoga, we see how new ideas in 1776 impact our current lives today and have the opportunity to create our own song about it. While working with a paper cup, string, ribbon, tape, and ingenuity, we create a system to move gold coins from one end of the rainbow to the other – it is close to St. Patrick’s Day you know! Then add the knowledge, wisdom, and confidence combined from practicing on stage in drama, and a wonderful discussion about safety on internet sites and social media in computer class. These professionals care deeply about rigor, but also care about developing good people – the right mix for a great teacher.
As I walk away from my time with the 5th grade, I more deeply appreciate the experience of our students, the pressures they feel, the challenge we have to educate them, and the opportunities we have to help them grow, learn, and thrive. I will never say we are perfect as a school, but you will be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity with students and faculty this good. A big thanks to the 5th grade students and faculty team. I can’t wait for my next visit to another grade level in the Spring. One thing I will not forget though, next time I’ll make sure not to shadow on a day that the class is running a mile for time in physical education…that was tough!