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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Upsides of Life

The wind blew out of the north this morning as I rode to work. Smack into my face for most of the three miles. I thought what a great ride home I'd have this afternoon, with the wind at my back. The fickle Illinois wind, though, had other plans. When I walked out to my bike after work, I looked up at the wind turbine to see from which direction the wind was blowing. Southeast. Smack into my face for nearly the entire three miles home. The upside was the temperature had risen from the 7 degrees of this morning (real feel of -10 degrees) to 22 degrees (real feel of 12 degrees). At least the ride home was warmer.

Another upside to my day was the response a student offered to my essay, the one I'd written over break to share with my colleagues at our beginning of the semester meeting. I shared my work with my students to show them how I enter into a writing project and how I weave in primary as well as secondary sources. During class, I noticed many of the students reading the essay before they turned to researching for their own work. After class ended and most of the students had left the room, one young man stayed behind. He approached me and said, "I really liked your essay. The part where you talk about a family never really being prepared for a loved one's death because of the rollercoaster bad moments then good moments and how this can go on for years is exactly what I've experienced because of my mom. She has cancer." I asked the student how his mom is now, and with a smile he responded that she's doing well. "She still has markers, so she's not totally out of the woods," he said. "But she's doing good." I could see in his face and hear in his voice the love he has for his mom.

This connection with a student brought about through writing, my writing, was an unfamiliar moment for me. Before, there was always this wall between me and the students, the typical teacher possesses the knowledge v. students need the knowledge. Today, though, that moment between me and the student was shared knowledge because of a shared experience. While my heart hurt for the student having to live through the pain of seeing his mother deal with cancer, I was happy he felt a connection to what I had written and could talk to me about his experience because of that connection.

4 comments:

Cathy said...

Wonderful. I think these connections are so important. Even in the classroom setting.

Just think...that student is not only connected to you now, but he is also more connected to class and writing because he can see the way writing can express even those hard to describe experiences. I'm guessing his motivation just went up for your class :)

JK said...

I hadn't thought about the motivation issue. What a wonderful thought. Just thinking about this makes me wonder if it's possible to connect to even more students, somehow, some way.

Randall Brison said...

Wow, this brings back memories, both the classroom experience and the cold bike rides into a headwind going and coming. I've ridden to work quite a bit the past few years. Not so much in the cold. I'm more of a runner / walker in winter -- you're a better woman than I am. :)
I can tell you that connecting with most younger students is vital -- as our former principal often said, "They don't care what you know until they know you care" -- and meaningful connection always enhanced my learning in post-secondary education, especially before I became intrinsically motivated to finish my degree.
Some people throw ice water on talk of connecting with students at that level, of course, pointing out the possible pitfalls of emotions.
BTW, my family is well, and I still have the same email address. I'm glad Ms. H pointed me in your direction.

JK said...

I, too, am so happy that you were pointed in my direction! :) I've thought about you over the years, hoping all has been going well. The boys are in college now?

I understand the pitfalls that can come with a more emotional connection with students. Sometimes it's very difficult to figure out just how much is the right amount.