teaching and learning in between meetings

Yesterday — and much of the past few weeks, actually — was flooded with meetings. The way meetings go, we talk about things that we would ideally do if we weren’t in meetings. We plan the strategizations and strategize our planning. Even with the best of meetings and the best of meeters, the acts of meeting can be tiring.

So I wasn’t at all surprised when, between meetings, I found myself wandering into the lab school of our early childhood program. This is where they keep the early childhood locked up tight, self-contained and secured, because it’s so precious we don’t want it to leak out. And we don’t want it polluted by the meetings outside. I spent ten minutes, all the time I had between these appointments, looking through the one-way glass and listening in on what was going on. After thirty seconds I had to start writing things down. From the teachers, I heard things like:

Did you flush?

I’m so glad you went!

We’re going to clean up and then we’re going to read a book.

Who’s crying?

If you can hear me touch your head.

Why do we take naps? [as a discussion prompt]

From children I heard things like:

I went!

I want to be in charge of people!

Sophia, your mom’s here! [followed by a chorus of others saying exactly the same thing]

I washed my hands! [also followed by a chorus of others saying exactly the same thing]

Why do we take naps? [as an authentic inquiry]

Throughout it all, every child was smiling, weaving about through the room from one thing to another, interacting with joy throughout. When the book was being read, the whole lot of them were entranced by the pages being held up high, pictures being carouseled around so all could see each piece of the story taking place. (It’s wonderful to see this generation of 4-year-olds still entranced by sketches on paper.) It was the highlight of my day, and it made me start to re-think a proposal I’m considering for a sabbatical. At one point, I was contemplating a stay in a National Park, to contribute to and learn about the system and the land; and I might still do this. But now I’m starting to consider that I could spend a year studying education, teaching, and learning at all levels and in all arenas: a park, a junior high, a university lecture hall, and even a preschool. In the midst of meetings, the 10 minutes of reprieve made me really joyful — like the kids I saw as they were getting ready for nap time, tucking in, then getting up, then scurrying back to their cots as the lights went out and the classical music came on. So, I’m wondering if a year of this in the midst of a busy teaching (and meeting) career might be an appropriate space for reflection. At the very least, I could continue to compile priceless quotations from people in the midst of it all. You don’t get those at meetings.

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2 thoughts on “teaching and learning in between meetings

  1. I think you are on to something. I too spent lots of time in the presence of greatness yesterday. My methods students were visiting our partner school. We all sat and stood in the principal’s office, listened to brilliant children explain why they liked this school. Meanwhile I kept checking on the student who was in the principal’s office working on math, helping him struggle. Later I had lunch with a star from my afterschool program who also goes to school at the same school. Finally, i chatter with the Principal on the way out of the building. I left feeling recharged and refocused on the blessings I have to make a difference in people’s lives.

    I also love thinking about you listening like you describe. The dialogic, lyrical quotes you have here are evocative. There is a love and joy in the quotes – especially in response to one another – that seems absent from much of our discussions of teaching and learning. I think there’s power in that work and moreover you seem to have an ear for it.

    1. Your encouragement could push me just enough to get me into trouble. But I think you’re right about finding these rechargings in observing the passions and work of others in teaching and learning. The more I think about it, the more I can imagine finding interesting corners where these things are taking place, from national parks to classrooms, and from preschools to methods classes. I think it would warrant a trip to NC, too.

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