So often as teachers, we lament our students’ inability to slow down. We speak unkindly about how they rush through what they are doing, never focused on the moment or task in front of them. We wish that they did not think about what’s next but instead thought about what is right now. Right in front of us. The opportunity at hand.
And yet. So often as teachers, we do the exact same thing.
I feel this pull strongest of all at the start of the school year. We have these few precious days to set a tone for our classroom, for our year together. We have these few precious moments to convince some of our kids who feel like school is not a place for them that this year can be different. We have these few precious hours to prove to our students that we see them for who they are, we hear what they have to say and we believe that they can make the world a better place.
And yet too often we rush right through these days. We rush because we are worried that we will never, ever have enough time to get in all that we are supposed to teach. We rush because the teachers down the hall have already started teaching content and we feel behind even though we have only been in school for two and a half hours. We rush because there are so many demands and we want to feel that we are doing all that we can to meet them. We rush because everyone else is rushing.
So I have to remind myself. Often. I have to remind myself to take a breath. I have to remind myself to slow down. I have to remind myself of what I know. And what I know is that if I don’t take the time to make this place feel like a safe space now, then nothing else is going to work. What I know is that if I don’t take the time to make every child feel as if he or she is going to be loved for EXACTLY who he or she is now, then nothing else is going to work. If I don’t take the time to talk about the challenges of group work and the benefits of group work, then I am going to be sorry later. If I don’t take the time to make every child believe that he or she CAN be successful in this classroom, then I am going to regret it later. If I don’t take the time to show them their ideas matter and that I want them to wonder and question and that I want them to think creatively without worrying about whether they are right or wrong, then when I tell them these things later my words will have no meaning because they have not been supported by actions. If I don’t take the time to start building a community of readers, writers and learners now, then absolutely nothing else is ever going to matter.
I remind myself of these things because I know that they matter more than any other content ever could. Then I take a breath. I slow down. And then I remember.