Posted in Students, Teaching

The Choices We Make

A teacher’s day is filled with many choices.  Do I teach the lesson this way or that way?  Do I put coffee in my sugar or cream?  Do I email or call that parent?  Do I stay late to do work or go home early?  So many choices on a daily basis.  However, just imagine what life is like for our students.  Do I sit next to that student or that student?  Do I spend extra time on my homework?  Do I tell the truth?  Do I eat the jiggly gray stuff in the dining hall for lunch?  Despite these many options, there is one question that we assume all of our students would answer in exactly the same way: Do I stay late for extra help from the teacher or go home?  Almost always, we would assume that students would choose to go home and seek help from their parents or a family member.  Rarely do we think students would be excited to spend extra time with their teacher or in their classroom.

Today was one of those rare occasions in the sixth grade.  Following my basketball team’s practice, I walked to my classroom hoping to finish work that had begun to pile up.  I also wanted to be sure I had time to attend my son’s basketball game 30 minutes later.  I had a short window in which I could accomplish something.  So, I made sure to stay focused on the task at hand and not stop to dilly dally or talk to my colleagues.  I walked straight from the locker room to my classroom, and boy was I surprised when I reached my classroom.

Four of my students were anxiously waiting outside of the locked classroom.  Why?  Why were they not playing games in their rooms or doing extra work?  Why were they standing outside of our classroom?  So many choices.  I was befuddled.  Then, it all became clear.  Several weeks ago, I showed a few of my students a video about this very awesome coding contraption called the Makey Makey.  One student was so enthralled by the gadget that he purchased one online and it had finally arrived.  He was so excited to show me the device.  It was at this point that I realized that I too was faced with a choice.  Do I ask these students to leave so that I can accomplish my work or do I invite them inside so that we can play with the Makey Makey?

Knowing that one of my goals as a teacher is to inspire my students in any way possible, I of course put the work off until later in the day and helped the students hook up and play with this amazing tool.  We got it to work right out of the box.  The students were so amazed with how it worked.  They were beaming with joy and could hardly stand still.  I reminded the students to try some of the things we saw in the video.  So, one of the students got a piece of paper and with a pencil drew on arrow keys like on a keypad.  He then attached the alligator clips to the edge of the paper.  Amazement filled the room when we realized that the pencil-drawn arrow keys worked.  When you touched the paper on the arrows, the Pac-Man icon moved around the game board on the computer.  So cool!  The boys were mesmerized.  While they all had other places to be, we couldn’t play with the new toy long.  However, we had played with it long enough to be excited for the next opportunity.  I challenged the students to research how to make it play like a piano for the next time we met to work on it.  They seemed very excited about that.

Yes, I then needed to spend some of my free time completing the work I should have done earlier in the afternoon.  But, it was totally worth it.  We’re faced with many choices every day.  However, when a choice involves further inspiring our students, we must always choose our students.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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