4.5 Picture this
Originally posted April 23, 2006
I have one picture of my students that I absolutely love.
In the background of the photo, you can see the west wall of our classroom. That wall was covered in positive messages I had posted throughout the year, all intended to help students stay focused and believe in their own abilities.
In the photo’s foreground, you can see seven of my students. One of them was just starting to give me the finger as the picture was taken. I realized what he was doing right after I pushed the camera button that preserved the moment forever — the moment when he was just beginning to counter my ultra-positive messages with a message of his own.
The photo reminds that education is about what happens in the mind (or through the hands) of a student, not about what happens within (or on) the walls of a classroom. But that’s not the reason I love the picture so much.
I love it because it reminds me of that group of ninth graders. I taught them, and the dozens of their classmates not pictured, years ago, but it only takes one glimpse of that photo to remember exactly who they were. From left to right: Andre, Justine, Louis, Shandra, Jamal, Randall and John.
I remember the struggles, the successes, the hopes, the frustration, the good days and the days when my words got the physical or metaphorical finger from all of those students.
I remember. And I’m glad I remember. My only regret is that I don’t have more pictures to trigger more memories of more kids.
Teaching — and all of the relationship building and studying and reflecting teaching entails — is your priority. Everything else at school seems to get pushed aside, especially during your first year. But before this year ends, I want to encourage you to take a few moments to snap some physical and mental photos of your students. You’re going to want to remember them — even the days you are occasionally tempted to forget.
At some point during the next few weeks, take a camera to school and ask a colleague if he or she will use five minutes of his or her planning period to take a picture of you with your students. Or splurge and spend forty dollars to buy a yearbook that contains pictures of all of the kids. Or spend an hour at a coffee shop one Saturday morning jotting down a list of memorable moments from your year in the classroom. I make that list every year. That collection became the basis of this weblog. Looking back, I wish I had illustrated my personal collection with more images — more actual photos of my kids.
- Next: The end (for now)