The Final Friday: The Possibilities are Endless!

The possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.” 
Emily Dickinson

Wow! Another year has come and--almost--gone! Is it just me, or was this one the quickest yet? In our district, this past Friday was our final day of student attendance. Whether you finished last week, well before that, or have yet to finish school for the year, Thanks to teachers everywhere for another amazing year of engaging, inspiring, and empowering our students, yourselves, and each other. 

At this time of year, I often read about graduation speeches that have been delivered during these weeks. I, myself, have made a few over the years. Typically, when speaking to young people preparing to embark upon their next stage of life, I mention the themes of dreams, success, and possibilities. For our students, their possibilities are truly endless; thank you for sparking this sense of possibility within them throughout the year by kindling their imagination as Dickinson describes in the above quote.

A favorite book I used to read to 5th graders leaving a K-5 school where I served is Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom, & Wishes by Susan V. Bosak. Like Dickinson, she encourages young people to dream great dreams and to follow through on these by believing, doing, and thinking. It is not enough to merely dream of future greatness, however; we must also apply many hours of disciplined thought and disciplined action so that we realize our dreams. Students around the country learned this from their teachers this year and will be well served, many years hence, when their “possible fuses” burn down to the point of ignition--with astounding results!

For some of us, we are approaching a different stage of dreaming, a stage shared by Bosak in her book:

I have dreamed a lifetime of dreams
I reached many of them
Not all, but many
Many also changed along the way.
What I have most are fine memories
When you're as old as I am,
You still dream dreams
But they're different.
Mostly they're wishes for those who follow.

Like most passionate educators, I spend long hours at work and still have many goals I wish to accomplish both personally and professionally. Honestly, though, even more important to me at this point in my life are the wishes I have for my daughter and for all young people, including the kids who attended our schools, learning alongside us this year. Like me, I know that at times this school year, dedicated educators subordinated in importance their own time, interests, efforts, and dreams to those of the students with whom they interacted each day. Thank you for making such sacrifices in order to help make our students' future dreams come true at some point long down the road.

As Dickinson suggests, “possible” is indeed a long fuse, one which we must ignite and keep aflame each and every day if we are to succeed. This applies not only to us, but also to our students. To our classroom teachers I say: The work you have done this year was important and noble work; I hope your final days of school are/were among the best ones yet and that you enjoy a summer filled with laughter, love, continued learning...and imagining the possibilities. Doing these things are ways we Teach (and Live) with Passion!

The 34th Friday: What's in the Box?

The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.” 
Anatole France

Last weekend, Joe Sanfelippo, a close friend who is also a superintendent in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, shared a story that I, in turn, want to share today, as many educators approach the end of another school year:

Joe said that his wife was subbing in a 6th grade classroom in his small, K-12 district last Friday. During the day, she noticed a group of high school seniors (who would be graduating the next day) leaving a 6th grade teacher’s classroom, talking and smiling as they left this classroom. This piqued her curiosity and--perhaps even expecting something was amiss--she went into the classroom to investigate--and learned why these boys had stopped by this teacher’s classroom just before their graduation. 

She learned that this middle school teacher, on these students’ first day of 6th grade nearly seven years ago, brought out a black box of
some kind, talked about it, 
described it, discussed what might be inside it, and then said to them: “If you want to know what’s in the box, come back and see me on your last week here before your high school graduation.” And that was it. That’s all he ever mentioned about it. He never said another word about the black box, did not remind them about it, nothing. The day before graduation, they all just walked down there and wanted to know what was in the box. 

I thought this was a powerful story on many levels and wanted to share three takeaways for us to remember today, as we may be but days away from saying goodbye to our own students for the year, depending on where you serve:

  • Our words are powerful and impactful. Our students will remember them, years after we say them.
  • Creating curiosity and a sense of inquiry within our students is a powerful way to engage them and, ultimately, help them learn.
  • Relationships are everything. Although I do not know this teacher personally, my hunch is that this person went about his teaching and learning business every day the remainder of that school year building positive relationships with his students. They returned to his classroom partly to satisfy their curiosity, but also to reconnect with someone they liked and respected as a teacher.

By the way, when Joe shared this story on a Voxer group chat with 10 other educators I communicate with via that app regularly, guess what all 9 of us asked almost instantaneously? You guessed it: “Joe, what was in the box?” Alas, his response was: “They won’t tell.”

As many of us prepare to bid adieu to the students we taught every day this year, let's remember the influence each of us has over these young learners. Keep creating a sense of curiosity within them. Know that your words matter to them and use them intentionally. Keep forging those relationship skills with them, right up to the very end. Doing these things is what causes our kids to come back and see us, years after they leave our classrooms. The are also ways we Teach with Passion

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