Authored by Mary B. Sellers
Here I go quoting Rumi again, but we all have those teachers we circle back to, don’t we? Rumi is one of those teachers for me. Another is (are) children. I started paying attention differently this year, and it’s amazing just how many of my students’ daily trials and triumphs reflected so much of my own internal state(s).
Below are a few of my most vivid fourth grade memories from this year, in condensed, bite-sized, paragraph form:
Our fourth graders have managed choppy waters this year, and because of that, I feel an especially tight bond with these kiddos. We’ve weathered port a potties state mandated crises like the seasoned sailors we very much are not (like that time Willa and I mistakenly went to the ones near the ECC and not for the LS); or how a few days last fall when Patrick ended up impressing us all with his rockstar-level backstage play/sound system skills. Many have occurred over our recesses, under the cool, satisfying shade of the big tree where the land falls into the little valley of gravel. There, on that bench, I oftentimes hear and see such interesting things; it’s a delight, weather permitting. I’ll miss eating lunch with students outside and getting to catch up with them on a less formal basis.
Writing isn’t just a skillset, it’s a craft, a tool for processing the external. Writing is a direct conversation with the psychological and emotional weather of its practitioner’s internal state. It involves the mind, yes, but also relies heavily on subjective stimuli and emotion, too. Recently, I got to help out with an ELA writing workshop with three of the grade’s eager writers. While I took turns reading each of their stories, I encouraged my students to talk to each other about what they like and don’t like about their pieces. Not only did they give insightful and helpful feedback for one another, but they were also eager to then read each others’ and provide their own peer reviews. A week later, these same three students came into my office to announce that they were collaborating on writing a play!
A few months ago, one of my students was the subject of some bullying at a co-curricular. Since I had a free hour ahead and they did not want to go back to homeroom, I offered to have them come read their library book with me while I graded in my office. They were still visibly upset, but eventually opened up to me about several family matters at home. I said little, listened more, attempting only gentleness in opening space for her. Students sometimes just need to be heard instead of spoken at. Eventually, we steered the conversation to books and her favorite authors before she happily settled down to read for half an hour.