Snowy roads, a forgotten laptop and a first class full of glue and tissue paper. I asked the kids if they could do their best to be purposeful and respectful as they shredded piles of paper and painted white glue onto massive provincial cardboard cut outs. I handed a few of them some cameras and asked them to interview each other on the artistic process as I rushed around gathering materials. They generated their own questions, found their own space, and got to work. Twenty minutes before the end of class it was a disaster area. Ten minutes later it was spotless. Eight of them stayed back at recess to help wash glue cups. I hadn’t asked.
In our classes after recess, we finished with an incredibly challenging math problem that they were tackling on their own in order to develop unique conjectures to contribute to a class discussion the following week. It was a really hard problem. We had worked through it as teachers earlier in the year and were averaging 45 minutes to arrive at solutions. We encouraged them to take their time and reminded them that partial solutions and questions were what we were really looking for. Their persistence and perceptiveness blew me away. We had 5 kids solve the problem.
I am away from school all next week. As I planned for my absence at the end of the day, all I could think about was how I really just didn’t want to miss any of their moments… Where the light goes on and their faces light up. Where they walk out to recess mumbling about math because they’re genuinely excited about being on the verge of a discovery…
Then it occurred to me, that this is what it’s supposed to feel like.. When you figure out what you’re supposed to do with your life and how to live it. When your ‘work’ is the only place you really want to be on a Monday morning. Ask me about ‘how finding your passion changes everything.’
I just figured it out.
“They ask me why I teach and I reply, ‘Where could I find such splendid company?’ There sits a statesman, strong, unbiased, wise; another Daniel Webster, silver-tongued. A doctor sits beside him, whose quick steady hand may mend a bone, or stem the life-blood’s flow. And there a builder… And all about a gathering of teachers, farmers, merchants, laborers: those who work and vote and build and plan and pray into a great tomorrow. And I may say, I may not see the church, or hear the word or eat the food their hands may grow. But yet again I may. And later I may say, I knew him once, and he was weak, or strong, or bold or proud or gay. I knew him once, but then he was a boy. They ask me why I teach and I reply, ‘Where could I find such splendid company?'”