(A post I composed last year via Medium).
This week our College is in mourning. One of our Year 8 students, Tom, tragically passed away on the weekend. The start of the semester has been a painful one for our students and teachers. We have felt the intense loss and injustice of a young life taken too soon.
We have comforted mourning students who are grappling to make sense of the reality that their friend and classmate will no longer be joining them. Grappling with his absence in school routines and activities, at rugby and footy training, and the knowledge that he will no longer be joining them on after school fishing and camping trips. They’ve had to grapple with a non-responsive Snapchat friend, a silent Facebook friend and iMessages left unanswered. 13-year-olds should never have to grieve this deeply.
As I’ve listened to students processing their grief, reflecting on all they loved about their friend, I’ve heard poignant anecdotes. Stories of their friends quiet and cheeky sense of humour, his close friendship with his father and younger brother, their friends ability to sense when someone is feeling down and to cheer them up with a hug if you’re a girl or a friendly tackle and wrestle if you’re a boy, his shoulder barge way of saying hello, his signature emoji, his favourite movies, his mischievous escapades, the stories go on. Students have shown me their favorite pictures of him, screenshots of his iMessages and his Snapchats. All the things they felt made Tom special to them.
In the midst of this, I can’t help but ask myself many questions. Do we teach children what really matters? Do our classrooms embrace the fullness of our student’s humanity? Their potential? Their hopes? Their worries and concerns? What they feel makes them special and unique? Do we take the time to enjoy their sense of humor? Do we connect learning to children’s family and friends? Even better, do we really involve them as partners in the education of their children? After all, these are the people who at the end of the day really matter to our students. And most importantly do we teach children that they are loved and that they, as unique and wonderful individuals, are of far, far, far greater importance than the academic knowledge they are acquiring?
True teaching, real teaching, is an act of love.
Data is knowing our students. Planning is thinking deeply about each child on our classroom roll, not just their academic abilities, but who they are and what they value. Assessing is listening to their voices. Engagement is always for the purpose of their empowerment.
May our students enter our classrooms knowing they are known and loved. May they exit our classrooms walking with the confidence and dignity of highly valued and loved individuals. All the knowledge in the world cannot compare in strength or worth to love. May love drive and frame all we as educators say and do. The children in our care are absolutely worth it.
(Image created by Miguel Carraca from Noun Project.)