Friday, October 9, 2009

Message in a Bottle

Working in education is challenging. It is fulfilling. To put it simply- it is good hard work. However, it is a job that requires renewal and inspiration. Some of us find that renewal in conversations with colleagues, vacations with friends and family, or professional learning. While I am no longer in the classroom, I find that I still crave and require that refueling- almost a "reboot" or "refresh" of the spirit. The following gift has become a touchstone for rejuvenation.

A couple of summers ago I had the pleasure of teaching a science methods course to a group of 60 pre-service teachers. This group ranged from "kids" in their early 20s to experienced adults entering a second (or third) career as a teacher. I was a rookie in the college lecture circuit but I thoroughly enjoyed by time with those adult learners and I worked hard to make them champions of elementary science instruction.

On the last day of class, as I went to turn in grades and clean out my mailbox, I discovered an empty Dasani water bottle tucked beneath some junk mail. Inside the bottle was one long strip of paper wound in an artistic tangle. I gently pulled out the strip of paper, like the NY Stock exchange ticker, and read the following from one of my college students:

Dear _____,

We talk about your class a lot. Everybody loves it. A lot. If Peter Travers from Rolling Stone wrote about your class, he would probably say something like “No class can be a downer that fills you with pure exhilaration. You leave _____’s class with a feeling of the rarest kind; that you’ve just enjoyed a close encounter with an enduring classic.” Seriously, I was talking to different classmates today about how science really isn’t their thing, but they look forward to your class. I kid you not. They also commented about it makes them want to teach science now. During the first class you briefly mentioned how statistically, science classes don’t change attitudes towards science. You definitely are. Your passion and dedication is obvious, you have a swell sense of humor, and your teaching style is contagious. Well, _____, this concludes my ramblings. Keep up the good work.


A Student

That Dasani water bottle currently sits in my workspace. Every couple of months it will catch my eye. I grab it, unscrew the lid, and carefully withdraw that curled strip of paper. The words lift me up and remind me that I am good at this teaching thing. And I question why I'm spending most of my days locked in meeting rooms discussing educational initiatives, visions, missions, and logic models- so far removed from both teachers and students- when I could be out there making a difference for kids.

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