It's August, and as it happens to be my holidays, I am knee-deep in summer lovin'. I have paint spatters on my legs from the fresh coat I applied to the veranda this afternoon, a good book waiting for me on the couch and the idea in my head of a glass of iced coffee just waiting for me to drink it. Thoughts of school, teaching and work might be a million miles away from my immediate consciousness.
But are they?
As a teacher, this time of the year is one where my mind drifts to 'what ifs' and 'how abouts'. To possibilities. Summer is the time of year when teachers are finally afforded the time in which to breathe, take stock and think about what is yet to come. So while I am not ready to cash in on summer yet, here are five wishes I have for the upcoming school year, set to start in a few short weeks.
1. I wish for this upcoming school year that we, as teachers, act on the principle that education be not only about the mind -- it be about the person. That is, the whole person. I love what Nel Noddings has to say on the topic:
"...school, like the family, is a multipurpose institution. It cannot concentrate only on academic goals any more than a family can restrict its responsibilities to, say, feeding and housing its children. The single-purpose view is not only morally mistaken, it is practically and technically wrong as well, because schools cannot accomplish their academic goals without attending to the fundamental needs of students for continuity and care" (Noddings, 2005, p. 63).
What Noddings is saying here is that school must function in continuity for the purpose of caring for students as whole persons, not just merely as empty minds which require regular and constant filling up of knowledge. Students have minds, yes, but they also have souls and bodies which both require care and attention in the course of the day, along with caring for the student's mind for academic, physical, emotional and relational pursuits. My wish is for educators to remember that there is more to student learning than simply pumping the mind with facts and information. The possibilities for growth and development are endless.
2. There is a lot of wasted time in school. Time wasted before school while waiting for all the buses to arrive, time wasted in line-ups, in wait time, in coming and going places. Another wasted time of day is lunch time. Sure, it gets used for eating and sustenance, but wouldn't it be great if lunch time was an opportunity for growing community, in the very same ways that those families who see it as a priority use it to grow family attachments?
What I am talking about, and this is another one of Noddings' beliefs as well, is the importance of mealtime. Breaking bread in the very real sense of the word. Mealtime is a time to talk and listen, a time to discuss and reflect. A time for sharing and caring. A time when what is said is not evaluated and assessed but taken at face value and respected. If students were given this opportunity, to sit face-to-face, as might a family eating a meal together, how might that benefit in a positive way the dynamics of social interactions among students? We'll never know until we give it a try.
3. There is very little choice for students in school and very little choice for teachers either. We have all been given the required curriculum and asked to adopt it as our own. But wouldn't it be wonderful if students and teachers were able to work together to come up with themes and pursuits that might reflect curriculum ideals, using them as springboards for further areas of study and exploration. Using curriculum jazzed up with a healthy dose of imagination, critical thinking and creativity to make these extra-curricular projects work within the existing structure? I think the sky is certainly the limit for those who give it a chance. Who knows what new interests might be sparked for learning among students who are currently disenfranchised, disengaged and disempowered. The time is nowfor outside the box thinking and teaching..
4. My wish for teachers and students is that we remember that each person we see sitting in front of us each day, standing beside us at our desks, walking along in front of us or behind us in the hallways -- each person going and coming in the hustle and bustle. Each person is a person. A person with feelings, thoughts, emotions, complicated baggage, issues, story, problems, joys, sorrows, hurts and pains. They are a person with more than meets the eye. And I wish for all those who find themselves in the educational milieu, that is MY HOPE would be, that we never lose sight of the humanity of the people in our schools: the humanity of the students, the staff, the parents, the volunteers, the administration and any visitors that might find themselves walking through the hallways. May we always be known as people who care. And may that define each and every one of us this year.
5. And as a final note, may we have fun! Is it too much to ask that we find time to play? Time to laugh? Time to breathe, and wonder, and imagine, and daydream? Time to doodle, and draw and sculpt and create. Time to rest and time to work. And may we never forget that learning is a life-time pursuit. We don't want to burn out the creative fires until the very last embers of life have been snuffed out, when we find ourselves breathing our last. May we always be found learning each and every day of our life, and may it be a joyous, delightful, exciting, inspiring and worthwhile venture.
These five are among my wishes for you all- for we are all learners. And for those of us who call ourselves teachers, staff and students, as we set off in another few short weeks for another voyage, another adventure of learning, wonder and discovery: let's not forget to take care of each other in the process.
Carry on, comrades!
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