Joe’s mother knew her son very well, better than I could ever hope to know him, and she reminded me of it constantly.
Her son was a sweet boy. One day in class, I learned something about him that she had yet to realize. I asked the boys and girls to write down all of the things they wanted in a mate someday. Some sly students, to avoid completing the assignment, said they didn’t want to get married so I told them to write twenty-five reasons they wanted to be single. (That got them thinking about marriage!) The students wrote all sorts of things and after reading them, I sealed the papers up in envelopes and sent them home to their parents for keepsakes.
Joe’s paper stood out to me. It read, “I want a wife who will leave the dishes in the sink and come outside and watch me ride my bike.” I envisioned him running from the dinner table to pop wheelies outdoors while his mom washed a stack of dirty plates. (I chuckled at the thought of him doing the same thing twenty years later . . . performing bike tricks in the street while his wife stayed sink-side to tidy up after their evening meal.) Clearly, like many moms, Joe’s mom spent time doing housework when he really wanted her to spend time doing things that mattered to him.
If you are reading this, you are most likely a teacher and a darn good one! No doubt, you have spent more than your share of time “doing dishes” (grading papers and cutting out laminating) when your family members really wish you’d leave it all “in the sink” to live a life that involves laughing and playing and bike riding. Less of you saying, “not now” and more of you saying, “yes, now definitely!” Less striving and more living. Less planning and more spontaneity. In order to do that we have to remain ever-conscious of our actions. At home, we have to put away our phones, leave the stacks of papers, and intentionally have more conversations and bedtime stories. Do not look back at missed opportunities and do not wait for a big block of time to spend together. Just be conscious of the little moments that occur every day and take advantage of them to live in the moment and make some memories.
Practical application: In the classroom, focus on asking questions as a way to get to know your students even better. Ask them what they did over the weekend and why they did those things, and talk with them about the important events going on in their lives. Every once in awhile, plan a short project that lends itself to students working on something creative so you can have time for short, purposeful conversations with them. Or ask the class a “question of the day” or a “question of the week” and have short discussions about their answers so they can share their feelings, thoughts, and views. This takes about ten minutes, but along with helping students practice oral language skills (and how to talk without using a cell phone) it allows students to share their thinking which makes them feel known, listened to, and valued by you.
If you are reading a chapter book aloud to the class, ask, “Are you more like this character or that character? What makes you think that?”
If you could visit any place, where would you go and why?
What do you want to be when you are older? What are you doing to help make that happen?
If you had a free day with no access to technology, how would you spend it?
Any open-ended question will work. 🙂
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