I am a teacher in my twenties — one who often feels I am too young to feel so tired or have such delicate skin around my eyes. My smile lines are one of my many insecurities, but this year I am finally embracing them. At least they will appear above my mask, I think. I hope they’ll recognize the joy in my eyes.
I glance through my classroom door from the hallway as I await the arrival of the last few fourth graders on my roster. I can’t help but notice their nearly perfect posture and the loud silence that fills the room. It feels as if their personalities are caged in– like their bodies within the plexi glass stations. “They’re so quiet,” I comment as I turn back to my teammates. We laugh, hopeful that our superpowers will activate their voices.
Since that day, I have witnessed playful, unmasked kids outdoors and timid and distracted learners within the boundaries of their learning stations. The plexi glass is a physical window into whether or not students are on task, and students are reluctant to speak even when invited to turn and talk to each other through the windows. Engagement is low. Attention is spotty. Organization is. . .a work in progress. I’ve heard murmurs of “We basically just sit in the same spot all day. I just want to take this mask off.” I think, This is hard, but the joy of learning does not have to be masked, too. Today, I thought I’d rename the plexi glass in an effort to unmask the joy of learning in this new environment:
“Writers, I know that sitting in your new learning stations has been SO hard. I was doing some thinking, though. It almost feels as if our classroom is an office space, and you each have your own cubicle to work on your writing! You will definitely need some office supplies for your cubicles.”
Fast forward through our interactive video lesson. Writers made a plan for themselves and got right to work. Some continued drafting. Others immediately unzipped their kits and began making use of their sticky notes as they practiced rewriting and inserting. Instrumental music played, and writers were engaged. At the end of writing, I invited fourth graders to turn to their talk partner of the week and share what they felt proud of as a writer today. It was the first time that I did not have to nudge anyone to share.
Keep embracing your own smile lines. Keep encouraging learners to turn and talk. Keep your creativity flowing. I am sure you will find ways to unmask the joy of learning in your own room. Maybe you’ll find a way to rename the tough stuff.
I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic