The opening of school this year featured a variety of distractions, pressures, and expectations for everyone in the education community. Students were returning from a year of disruption that threatened to carry over into the new year. Educators were asked to “catch students up” with curricular expectations despite wide variations in readiness for new learning and the ongoing presence of the virus. Families worried about virus spread mitigation efforts while also wondering whether their children’s learning would continue to suffer from ongoing pandemic challenges.
Certainly, there are reasons for concern about the current context for learning. Still, the challenges we face do not have to diminish the wonder and delight learning brings. We can choose to focus on the distractions or we can choose to deal with challenges while also keeping our focus on the magic of learning and the hope it offers for the future.
As educators, we have the privilege of “sitting in a front row seat” to learning. We are there when students grasp a new concept. We can witness growing confidence as students practice a newly learned skill. We can delight in students seeing a new perspective and experiencing a new insight. We are privileged to be present as students grow and take on new learning challenges.
Equally important, we are privileged to influence the learning processes we see. The experiences we design, the coaching we offer, and the encouragement we provide make this amazing learning journey possible. We are both architects and observers of one of the most important processes in life. What happens in our classes today can build confidence to face the next learning challenge or launch a lifelong pursuit of learning and discovery.
Yet, like most experiences, how we choose to see and the meaning we assign to the experience will heavily influence our response to it. We can fret about how far behind our students may be in relation to the expectations of the curriculum, even though we know that learning does not happen on a predetermined timeline. The richness and value of learning is not determined by when it happens. We can try to hurry our students through the experience and risk missing its magic, or we can focus on the moment and its significance in the larger learning journey. We can direct the attention of our students to the next test, or we can invite them to appreciate and celebrate what they are accomplishing.
Of course, our students look to us to interpret and explain the meaning they should be taking from their learning experience. Our delight and optimism and our appreciation and enthusiasm have an impact on how they view the learning in which they are engaged. Conversely, we can give in to stresses and expectations and allow impatience and urgency to dominate our work with students and risk draining the wonder and delight learning can offer.
We write the learning story we offer to our students. When we pause occasionally to appreciate and share the wonder of learning with our students, we invite them to see their challenges and struggles in a new light. We can choose to succumb to the pressure and urgency to meet largely artificial benchmarks for learning progress, or we can decide to experience the magic of learning and our “front row seat” to the process. Our choice will determine whether we constantly rediscover the joy of learning as we accompany our students on their journey of discovery and growth.