I'm going to write my next few posts, dare I call it a series, on some things that never change in education.
No, not those types of things. This will not be a rant.
I want to explore some of the ideas, practices, and motivations that are constant; perpetual.
Ed-technology is great. I love Google Docs, and when my SmartBoard works, it's fantastic. And I also love many of the innovative ways that are being used to teach. Project based learning, Genius Hour, and Flipped Classrooms are wonderful and sometimes very effective. They are changing and developing to fit each new generation. And that is good.
But I want to look at the parts of teaching that seem to be molded to its bedrock; a part of the foundation that holds everything else up. Truths young teachers like myself learned to emulate from masters, and no matter how many technologies are introduced or practices developed, these things remain constant.
So let's start with a story.
My parents divorced each other when I was in 6th grade. I was too busy playing in the woods, jumping on the trampoline, and hanging out with friends to notice that they did not love each other, and that my dad was sleeping on the couch a lot.
So when they said they were splitting up, I was devastated. The fact that there was a high number of divorces among my generation did nothing to soften the blow of a family being ripped apart. Pain usually came from getting stung by wasps or fighting with my brothers. But this pain hurt in a much more severe way, and it was suffocating and more than a little boy should have to handle.
Top that off that it was my first year of middle/public school.
I remember one of those overwhelming, lonely days in sixth grade when I stared into space in Geography class trying not to think about what was going on at home, and I realized class was over and I was by myself in my desk.
"Trevor, are you alright?" Mr. Peters asked me. He was about 30 years old, loved basketball, and once said the word damn in front of the class, so he was cool to me.
I told him I was fine and started packing up my books. He sat down in the desk next to me and said again, "Trevor, are you alright?"
I looked at his eyes for a second and then looked back to the floor. After a moment, I looked back up and Mr. Peters was still looking at me. I tried again to tell him I was fine, but my voice choked up and my 11 year-old eyes filled with tears and I couldn't say anything.
Whether it was some magical intuition or that my mom called him, I don't know, but Mr. Peters said, "Are your parents divorced?" I nodded yes, and he said,"My wife and I are getting a divorce right now, and my little girl is having a really tough time with it. Can you tell me about it?"
And he spent his 1 hour prep period talking to me, and wrote me a pass to skip math class. And I talked to him everyday the rest of that year. And he hardly said a word.
He just listened.
There was nothing constant about my home-life in middle school. It was sometimes good, and sometimes very painful. But Mr. Peters would listen to me everyday. And now that I'm a teacher, I know that he did not have time to listen to me everyday.
But he did.
And it saved me.
I have many, many students who are struggling. Whether it's divorce, depression, or abuse, most of their stories are much harsher and more painful than mine. And I cannot relate to all of them or offer sage wisdom and advice.
But I can listen.
And there is a chance that listening might save someone.
Because listening is one of those powerful things that never changes.