The Wonder of Learning

Today one of my students asked me what I am looking forward to about next year.  It caught me off guard to hear such a question posed from a student.  It was a great question for introspection.  What am I looking forward to next year?  I really didn’t have a specific answer.

Her question was timely.

Today was the day.

It was the last day of the school year, and I am exhausted.  Utterly spent.

Somehow, no matter how many years I have taught, by the time I arrive at this day, I feel like I’m dragging my butt over the finish line like a dog with no hind legs.  But every year, by some stroke of luck or pure determination, that finish line is reached.  It’s not pretty, but I make it there.

There are many things about the end of the school year that I find to be quite challenging.  One of them is the tune that plays in my head on a repeated loop.  The tune that sings of all the things I could have done.  Should have done.  Would have done.

I try to look at it objectively and gain some perspective.  I try to remember that I’m tired and would be viewing things differently if I was not so fatigued.  I try to keep in mind the wonderful words of thanks that I received from parents and students today – the words that make this current state of exhaustion all worth it.  And although all of that helps to dim the haunting tune, I also try to locate the melody in this tune.  It’s there.  And it sings a song that must be sung.  It sings of one of the great beauties of teaching.

It sings of the wonder of learning.

A new teacher recently asked me how long it takes before a teacher no longer feels completely overwhelmed with all that they must learn.  I tried to reassure him that although the feelings of being overwhelmed with the necessity of learning dissipate, the overwhelming number of opportunities for learning never dwindle.   And that, I stated, is beautiful.  If we, as teachers, can continually harness a deep rooted passion for learning and improving our practice, it spills out into enthusiasm for the students to do likewise.  Such a wonder for learning that knows no bounds and is not limited by status of student or teacher is a catalyst for great things.  It’s that wonder for learning that is the beauty of teaching, and when we can harness that for ourselves in our own professional lives, we are much more likely to be successful at harnessing it in our classroom for our students.

As I hear that tune that plays in my head of the things I could have done differently with my students this year, I celebrate the fact that it speaks of continued opportunities for learning.  Although my chance at doing things better for this particular group of students has now come and gone, I take joy in knowing that I can continue to grow and develop and learn and that I can improve my practice for the next group of students.  Learning is so deeply satisfying.  And so, as I arrive at the end of the school year exhausted, weary, and worn, I realize that I have landed on my answer to the student’s question.  I’m looking forward to learning.  Because really, isn’t that what this is all about?

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