Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wonder and Awe

"If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life."                                                                    Rachel Carson


I love learning. It's education, in its current standardized state, that I sometimes detest.  When we are at our best, as educators and parents, we pass on little bits of passion that called to us in the cradle and beckoned us to grow, to discover, to feel, and to create. We heard those calls and hopefully in those stripped down moments when we stand before whatever we possess that is our own canvas- the blank lesson plan page, the calender, the ipad, the blueprint, the storyboard or the phone we recall the voice that beckoned. Whatever it is calling us to bring our best to the task, let's honor our first love and our first "yes" to the call to follow our vocation.

As another assessment season looms large and gray and I spend day after day with my heroes, the students who bring their best creative selves to school each new morning and struggle to "color in the lines" when what they really want to do is design a new kind of animal, one with a green eye and a blue ear that can do homework and other magic tricks, I am reminded of why I became a teacher.

I was raised in a house with books upon books. Stacks, rows, piles of books. For every occasion, there was a book. A book for birthdays, bath time, bad boyfriends, learning to cook, learning sign language, picking a college and on and on. They were carefully chosen, almost always hardbound, smelling like a publishing house. We loved books in our house, nestled them like infants, talked about them like friends. I read because I was limited to 30 minutes of TV a day and because everyone in my family read. I found friends, words, and feelings in those books. I still do.  I don't remember learning to read, I just read.

Now, years later, I work with kids who love learning but for whom the written word is an elusive target. Text on a page often doesn't make sense and it can taunt them to tears. Recently, a young man was working on a test for his religion class. He looked at the word, resurrection, and gulped. I said to him, That's a long word." He looked at me and smiled. "Yes," he said, "you could get lost in that word."  He possibly has a deeper understanding of the meaning of resurrection than the writer of the textbook and I want to be the teacher that gets to that. I want to free his spirit to rise every day to the meaning and promise of that word. Woe betide us if we put a check mark beside the question because a student couldn't read the word. Woe betide us if we don't ever let him see the joy that resurrection brings to our hearts and if it only remains an insurmountable mass of letters on a page.

So, what is the answer to those of us who want to help preserve wonder and joy in learning? We need to share what we discover every day. What we hear, read, draw or unearth that moves us! To give voice to what we have learned in the marketplace, the gym, the shopping center. We need to let verbs and nouns spring off the page and into our minds and hearts. Share with the children with whom you have influence what you have learned that day and ask, then listen, to what they have discovered. Tell them what made science, technology, cooking, advertising, math, reading, or accounting magic for you. Because once it was.. and it still can be. Let's reclaim wonder and awe.

In gratitude for my everyday heroes,
~Ellen~

This entry is my first post in what I hope to  be a helpful resource to parents and teachers. In future posts: great apps for kids and parents, tips for studying, awesome resources for discovery learning and, most likely, the occasional rant about standardized testing practices. God Bless.

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