Posted in Boys, Education, Sixth Grade, Students, Teaching

Expecting the Unexpected in the Classroom

When my wife and I met our son for the first time in Delaware, we were as happy as could be.  He was almost six years old and full of spunk.  As this was our first meeting with him and his foster family, we weren’t expecting to have him stay overnight with us in our hotel room, but he did.  We also weren’t expecting to have him come home with us that weekend either.  However, his social worker suggested we bring him home for Thanksgiving and she would come up to NH and pick him up later the next week.  Well, she never came to get him and said he could just stay with us as we were adopting him.  My wife and I certainly weren’t expecting him to come home with us after that first meeting, but he did.  We rolled with it because we knew that if it was happening, it was meant to be.  10 years later, it’s still meant to be and on a daily basis I expect the unexpected from my teenage son.  Each new day with our son is like a box of chocolates from Forrest Gump, “You never know what you’re gonna get,” and while it keeps us on our toes, we mostly love expecting the unexpected.

In a similar vein, my current sixth grade class never fails to surprise me.  In fact, it happened again today.  The students recently filled the positive reinforcement Marble Jar we use to help foster a sense of teamwork and focus within the class.  This means that they need to choose a party to have.  As we are so close to the big winter break, we had two options to offer them this morning.

  1. They could have a half-day Marble Party on the final day of classes before break.  It wouldn’t be a very long party though as we have cleaning and packing happening prior to this.
  2. We could have a full-day Marble Party on the day we return from the big break.

I thought for sure that the students would choose to have the Marble Party this Thursday, but they surprised me and unanimously voted to have it on the day we return from vacation.  Wow!  Perhaps I am the only one who needs instant gratification.  I’m a sucker for speedy delivery despite the great costs associated with it.  My boys wanted to wait in order to have an epic and lengthy Marble Party.  I was impressed.  They really are such a kind and thoughtful bunch of young men, and the surprises didn’t end there either.  Oh no.

Then, I solicited ideas for the Marble Party from the students.  In years past, this has been a 30-minute process as everyone as an idea.  The problem is, most of the ideas are repeats of what was already discussed and written on the whiteboard.  This year, the students listen to one another and don’t repeat ideas.  They go after what they want.  There were only four ideas suggested by the 13 students.  Wow, again they amazed me.  The whole process of selecting a Marble Party only took about 15 minutes, which is less than half of what it normally takes to complete this process.  They were so focused and attentive today that we were able to complete a somewhat difficult process in almost no time at all.  Again, they blew me away.

At this point in the year, I try not to have any expectations for this group of students as they continue to surprise me on a daily basis.  I’m trying really hard not to compare them to other groups and say, “Oh man, this is going to take a long time because it did last year” or “Oh, this is going to be a challenging project because it was two years ago.”  I’m trying to just go with the flow and let this group continue to amaze me with their kindness, care, focus, attention, and great effort.  They are phenomenal critical thinkers who love solving problems and completing quality work which exceeds my objectives.  I’m learning to let this excellent group of students write their own story this year, separate from any other group’s story.  This class is in a class all their own and so, just like each new day with my son is a blessing, each new day with this class is a gift.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring.  Anything’s possible with this class.

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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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