Posted in Education, Humanities, Teaching

When it Just Feels Right

I heard an interview with a surfer once and he said, “Sometimes, you can’t see the wave and so you just have to feel it.  When it feels like the right wave, you go for it even if you can’t see it.  You just know.”  I feel this message rings true for a lot of things in life.  Unfortunately I am not a mind reader nor can I predict the future accurately every time.  I base some of my decisions off of intuition.  Does it feel like the right thing to do?  Sure, most of the time you have to use data to support your decisions and choices, but on those few rare occasions where there are no hard facts, you just have to go with what feels right.  The same is true after the fact as well.  Sometimes you can’t put your finger on it, but you can feel as though what just happened was right.  It’s like our eighth sense.  We can’t explain it or detail it, but sometimes you just know when everything comes together in perfect harmony, like the heart formation.

My Humanities class today just felt right.  I felt like I was at the top of my game, introducing the agenda and setting the foundation for the work period.  It felt great.  I seemed to say the right words at the right time and my lead-in led to some focused and productive work in class by my students.  Now, that feeling could have also been skewed a bit by the fact that I only got about three hours of sleep last night.  You can’t say no to Coheed and Cambria live in Boston at the House of Blues.  It was totally worth it, but perhaps I was a bit tired and so maybe that feeling of awesome was my brain saying, “Yes, last night’s concert was amazing and you need sleep.”  Or maybe, it wasn’t like that at all.  Perhaps, my spidey sense was fully functioning and it really did feel right because it was right.  Yeah, I’m going with that.  Anywho.

After the students recorded tonight’s homework in their planbook, I reviewed today’s agenda for class.  Nothing special there.  I then explained today’s On this Day in History fact from History.com.  I didn’t do an especially phenomenal job describing this nugget of information either.  Both events just happened.  The magic came when I began to get into the specifics of what the students were to do in class.  I started off by explaining how reflection isn’t meaningful or helpful to students if they don’t actually learn something from their mistakes.  “The first thing you are going to do when you get started is to read your answers to yesterday’s reflection questions.  Review the challenges you faced yesterday and then come up with a game plan for today.  What do you want to accomplish or do differently today in class?”  I then quickly reviewed what the students needed to do after they read over their reflections from yesterday’s class.  Nothing too magical there, but I did try to be concise and careful with my word choice so that every student could comprehend the instructions in an appropriate and meaningful manner.  Then the boys got right to work.

Like Houdini escaping from a locked glass box full of water, magic filled the room as the students worked today.  They seemed more focused and dedicated to accomplishing a goal or task.  They asked insightful questions and really dug into their research sources, extracting relevant facts regarding their guiding questions.  I had some really cool conversations with some of the boys as they worked.  One student asked, “Why did they throw flowers at funerals?”  My response was a question, “Did you research the history of the tradition?”  So, together we looked it up.  What we found was baffling.  The tradition of using plants in funerals and burials didn’t start until the 15th century, yet he was researching ancient Egypt.  So, we reviewed the line in his source that made him think that the Egyptians used flowers in burial ceremonies.  It turned out that the phrase was “Cultural Flowering,” which has nothing to do with flowers.  We looked it up and found out that it was describing how the Egyptian culture began to grow and develop during this time period.  So much different than placing flowers in coffins.  I explained to him the importance of really examining words before trying to infer meaning from them.  I love teachable moments like this.

Towards the close of class today, we had the students stop and do some reflecting on their process and work ethic.  Before we discussed the reflection questions, I shared a noticing I made from two conversations I had with students about the importance of being sure you really understand words before drawing meaning from them.  The boys got a kick out of my stories.  Then, the students spent 10 minutes genuinely reflecting on how they worked today and what they learned about their topic.  Some of their responses were very insightful and honest.  It was awesome!

When class ended, I was left feeling like everything just went right.  It felt great.  I’m not trying to toot my own horn because I’m sure I misspoke several times and probably could have more effectively assisted a student, but I didn’t see those happenings.  I focused on the good.  Sometimes, we all need need to focus on the good and right in our lives, and today was one of those days for me.

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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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