Every year, I wait for the moment when my students begin to interact together as one team. I get excited when they begin coming to each other’s side to support and work together toward the goal. I love when students are no longer afraid of looking “silly” or “dumb” in front of each other. It is a magical moment and one I do not take for granted. I realize that getting my students to genuinely care about each other is not something that just happens. Coaching my team of students to care about each other is the part of my job that I take the most seriously.
This past week I was lucky enough to observe glimmers of hope that my students were learning to care about each other as people and learners. Here are two pictures that I captured during a math lesson:
In the first picture you see a student at the board sharing her work. This seems typical. However, this is a student who entered my classroom with little to no math self-confidence. This picture does not show the hard work and persistence that she has demonstrated over our past few months together. It does not show that she volunteered to go the board because she wanted to share her strategy. It does not show that her classmates complimented her on her accuracy and strong thinking. And it does not show the smile that was across her face when she sat back down. The team was proud of her. And the team has shown her that she can be vulnerable, and they will still support her.
The second picture looks like three boys gathered around each other, presumably socializing. Again, this seems typical. However, the student sitting down admitted aloud to the class that he had a different answer from everyone else and he couldn’t find his mistake. The two boys standing rushed to his side to help him figure it out. They walked through the problem with him trying to help him learn from his mistake. The team rallied around their perplexed teammate. And the team helped their member catch up and learn from an error in way that made him feel good about himself.
As their coach, of course I was proud. You hope that your students will be kind. You hope they will care about each other. You hope that they will offer help and assistance to peers without being asked. And when it happens, you stand back and smile because it is magical.
This level of trust, support, compassion, and camaraderie does not happen over night. It also does not happen without your guidance, constant coaching, and supervision. Every year, I have to remind myself it is worth the effort. Learning is about academics, but is also about caring for people. Learning is a team sport where the skills and the sportsmanship matter.
This is an October 2015 post from Kato Nims’s blog, Colorful Learning. Kato is a learner and creator who is blessed to call teaching her job.