Every Friday, for a while, in 5th grade, we played NewsScope.
It was like a quiz show, about Current Events. Two 5th grade classes would get together and compete; I think the class got to pick who would be on the teams, and I always got picked, which I loved. I was really good at it. The questions would come fast and furious– “Who is the prime minister of Great Britain?” “Where is the Suez Canal?” etc.
I remember feeling so excited, eager to slap my hand down indicating I KNEW, and then spit out the answer. My classmates would cheer. I overheard my teachers talking about how my parents made sure I went to bed early, listened to the news with me, helped me deliver the Globe, which I also read.I was really awkward at a lot of things, but NewsScope was definitely a shining moment.
Then, one day, my teacher, Mr. Donnelly, fired off the question. “Mail carriers have begun carrying pop-out umbrellas to fend off vicious…”
The entire class exploded in laughter, the teachers too, and I even laughed, even as I know I turned red and my eyes stung a bit. Duh. In such a hurry to be smart I hadn’t really even listened.
I don’t remember exactly when I got the idea that I was smart. It was pretty early on, I think. I’ve been thinking a lot about that, lately, in light of research around praising kids for smarts vs praising them for effort, and so on. I’ve also been thinking about it because of working with adults and thinking hard about the role of the teacher.
I really like teaching (although I still get the raging nervous stress feelings all day before a class.) I’m learning that my classes feel most alive (at least, they seem so!) when I make sure I’m not distracted from the people I’m with by trying to be the smartest kid in the room.
I was in a meeting once with a group of high school teachers when the suggestion was made that the teachers make time to shadow a high school student for the day. The teachers were unanimously horrified at this idea, and acknowledged that a high school day is pert near hell on earth. Now, these are teachers! Who were cool interesting people, and who try to be good at what they do. But they knew, in their hearts, that the person who has the MOST stimulating time in the classroom is usually who? The Teacher! Because the teacher is busy busy busy for a whole hour, or however long. And the students? Well, you try to build in a few interactive bits, but mostly, well…. sucks to be you.
What I’m realizing (and, this is an OLD story when it comes to me and children, but a relatively new one when it comes to working with and teaching peers) … I may or may not be the smartest kid in the room. (RAIN!!!!!) But as the teacher, in any given setting, I sure as heck am not the most important person in the room. Yes, I am more “powerful”, I create the plan, the structures, determine (mostly) the content…. but, in the end, MY experience of the two-hour workshop, or the one-hour coaching visit, or the semester-long-class… is NOT more important than theirs. Far from it. And it is a deep and worthy thing to figure out how to be a teacher who honors learning more than teaching, every time.