I write where I am, and for the last week I have had my toes entrenched in the sand on the beaches of Panama City, Florida. My seven days of sun and relaxation were reminiscent of a song from the Zac Brown Band. However, just like any true educator, I was open to any lessons while I kicked back in a beach chair, covered in Bull Frog 50+ SPF sunscreen, behind prescription shades, and under a Columbia fishing hat. Somehow, someway, five lessons managed to roll up on the waves and saturate me with educational droplets of wisdom.
Lesson #1: Doing Nothing is Doing SomethingUnless you consider throwing a Frisbee, playing cornhole, and swimming in the ocean to be intensely physical activities, I didn’t do much of anything for about seven straight days while on vacation. The funny thing is, however, that I reflected on many parallels to the classroom while sitting on my behind. How often do I leave work more fatigued than my students? I have often been told that a solid classroom is indicated by the students working harder than the teacher. Do I consider myself a teacher or a facilitator of learning? I used to be proud when an administrator walked in to observe me and I was busy lecturing away. Now, I know better. I am proud when my students are “observed” as active learners, and I am simply strolling around the classroom seeking to help and guide students on their individual learning journeys. Am I too eager to jump in and “rescue” a student who is struggling with a standard or concept, or do I stand by as a patient guide while waiting for him to ask for help or clarification? I can honestly admit that I oftentimes made the answer all-too-easy to discover during my first few years of teaching.
Lesson #2: A Pier’s Foundation Must Be StrongA popular community pier was about a half mile from my spot on the beach. Through binoculars (and not trying to exert too much energy) I witnessed all walks of life trek back and forth on that pier, and I could only imagine how sturdy the pier’s foundation needed to be to handle all types of weather. Do I set my classes up strongly by introducing and practicing all classroom procedures or do I dive immediately into the curriculum? Will these classroom foundations be solid, but flexible enough, to allow for all types of learning activities? Do I establish a BYOD system that welcomes all learning devices, including smartphones?
Lesson #3: If You Feed the Birds, They Will Soar
On day four of my beach escape, I watched a young man throw pieces of CheezIt crackers into the air just feet above him while Seagulls floated on the gulf breeze and gobbled up the bite-sized snacks. It was quite mesmerizing. As long as he fed them, they stayed directly above him…hungry for more. Am I knowledgeable of my students’ interests, passions, past failures/successes, and future ambitions? Do I allow these same interests and passions to dictate the direction of class? Do I stay abreast of current educational trends and practices in order to meet the students” where they are” and not where “I was” as a teacher?