I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Trip to the Art Museum: A School Year Analogy

My family and I took a "field trip" to the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum on Wednesday. While taking in many intricate paintings and trying to make sense of the various eras and styles, I started thinking more and more about school. It dawned on me that a trip to the art museum was a pretty good analogy for the school year.

I know, crazy right? You're probably thinking that this girl has gone off the deep end in planning out her classroom, thinking through her first days of school, etc. But bear with me...

1. First Timer vs Old Timer:

Art Museum --> Whether it's your first visit (which may or may not have been the case for Marisa and me, we can't quite figure that one out) or your five hundredth visit to the museum, everyone is there to see the museum. Some may have trouble finding their way to a certain hall, the gift shop, or even the bathrooms, so it's the duty of the guides (or one of the 500+ time visitors) to help point the newcomers in the right direction.

School --> Each school year, there are going to be some new kids - if not in your classroom, there will at least be some wandering the halls of your school. Wouldn't you know it, things look foreign to them - it's up to the teachers, principal, and fellow students to extend a helping hand and make all the new kids (and teachers!) feel at home.

2. Same Trip, Different Experiences:

Art Museum --> After the first exhibit (which had something to do with Costa Rica and Native Americans), my family split up. My parents went one way, and Marisa and I went another. It's not that we didn't want to stay together; it's that we had different pacing and different goals for what we'd like to see. It worked out just fine - we saw pretty much the same exhibits (but in a different order and in a different amount of time) and no one got lost. (We found each other about an hour into our visit in a special exhibit on the 2nd floor.) Then, we split up again but ultimately rendezvoused at the gift shop. We all took the same trip, but if you asked each of us what we saw, I bet we'd give you a different account.

School --> You and your students are in the same classroom, but you're not all going to take the same learning path this year. (GASP!) You'll start together and (hopefully) end together, but what happens in between is somewhat magical (and, as a teacher, admittedly frustrating). Some kids will ace certain assignments and need enrichment while others will struggle to master the basics. Some students will eagerly devour your entire classroom library, allowing them to spread their wings in the world of their imaginations, while others will drag their feet in reading, thus limiting their ability to build background knowledge and stretch their thinking. Some may choose to complete certain types of projects based on their learning styles and preferences while others may choose the "easy way out" on projects. Some will need less time, some more time. There's no perfect formula; there's no easy balance. Start together, end together, and be sure they're learning something and enjoying the journey along the way.

3. What speaks to me vs. what speaks to you

Art Museum --> There are those select few pieces of art that tend to stand out to (just about) everybody. But most strike a nerve on a more individual level. For example, tucked away in a corner of the Native American exhibit, there was this piece of artwork:

It's nothing much, I would admit to that, but I stood and stared for longer than most people probably would. Maybe it's because it reminded me of the Southwest, or maybe it was the artist's use of light and natural colors. Who knows? I saw a lot of incredible art on Tuesday, ranging from religious to renaissance and from impressionist to modern, but this is the piece that stuck with me. If you ask anyone else in my family, I bet each of them would have their own favorite. 

School --> And so it is in the classroom: Jane's favorite read aloud is going to be different from Tom's; Susie is going to remember different activities from math class than Johnny (who is, meanwhile, going to do his best to blot out math class from his memory); Rachel will remember the field trips while Sam will remember the science experiments. You never know what's going to make a difference for each child. And you may never get any acknowledgement or verification that anything did, in fact, make a difference. But each year you keep on keeping on because the experience matters. The kiddos are learning, though not in a standardized, stringent way of thinking. And that's okay. In fact, it's more than okay - it's absolutely beautiful.

I'll leave you with these thoughts for now. There are probably more ways I could have drawn on this analogy, but that would have exhausted too much time (and finger dexterity). It's time for me to get back to reading some more PD books and thinking about planning for this year's incoming students. Let's go!

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