"When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.” -Patrick Overton
A few years ago, my dormant imagination awoke. Now a little older, wiser, and experienced with things that life sometimes forces upon you, I took a breath and welcomed my imagination back.
I began with a simple question… What if? What if I put aside my fears and tried stuff that was new and scary? What if I stayed up late and prepped for something a little extra? What if I pushed a little harder to learn something new? What if I did everything possible to do different, reaching for something greater, without knowing exactly what the outcome would be? What would happen?
Life gives us two choices. Do something different, or accept things as they are, as they come. I don’t typically sit and accept things as they are. Those options are for me like choosing to live and choosing to be a rug. I imagine myself to be much greater than a rug.
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” – William A. Ward
I am not a rocket scientist, nor would I dare to try and pretend to be one. I am a learner in the truest form. All I know for sure is that in order to have different, I must do different. I had to imagine more. Carefully, quietly... I began to imagine. The excitement of possibilities flooded my mind. And I couldn’t wait to begin my push for different; my push for what felt like finally living.
I began to do things differently, on purpose.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” -Jake Canfield
Different can be terrifying sometimes. Our minds are wired for “flight” when we experience the slightest discomfort or fear. The decision to push for different must be just that, a decision. Purposeful. Fear tends to lose its power when you’re busy focused on a greater purpose. My want for different needed to be greater than my discomfort or fears. I pushed hard to grow; harder still at times when fear draped its heavy arm on my shoulder. I held on to the… What if? What would happen if I removed fear from the equation? How much could I grow? How much could I learn?
Fear for me can be crippling. It can swallow my every thought and move. In my push to learn more, I learned that everyone fears. The difference between those who do and those who don’t is one basic move. Those who do make a conscious decision to push through it all and reach for more, in spite of their fears.
When trying to reach for something good, I often pushed harder. Each time, each painful effort I survived, felt like triumph. It helped me to see what I once believed impossible, to be quite possible. My mind then freed and filled with possibilities, and my imagination for what could be, grew. I learned much, much more than I expected. I began to picture with clarity my ideal classroom, what it looked like, sounded like, and felt like. I imagined what my classroom could become, and it felt like the discovery of a buried treasure.
“Where do you want to go? How much you want to risk? I’m not looking for somebody with some superhuman gifts, some superhero, some fairytale bliss.” – The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
Our students are not looking for superheroes, or someone with superhuman gifts. We are not superheroes. We are works in progress, like our students. We set the path by doing what we want for our students. We are for them living breathing anchor charts.
So push to grow, because your kids deserve it; push to grow because you deserve it.
Pay attention, live, love, laugh, imagine, and learn on purpose. We are all a part of something bigger than each of us… each of us bits and pieces of the stars above, made of the same stardust. Maybe that is what drives us, maybe we are all meant to do more. Maybe we are all obligated to push for more.
We don’t have to be genius to grow genius in our classrooms; we need purposeful decisions to make change. Pushing for different requires imagination. If you can imagine it, stay your path. It is a path, a journey, not a place to be reached. All that is required of us for this journey is… to begin.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein
In a few weeks, our classrooms will be filled with nervous smiles and worried parents, all wondering what the new school year will bring. Some excited for their children to get started on a continued path of learning and growth, others a bit more worried. Sometimes we feel like it is our job to save each student, and the thought of maybe not reaching every single student affects us in more ways than one. The reality is that we can’t save every student in our classrooms in one single school year, but we can have great impact. Teachers are not superheroes, we are human.
Visit http://afhogan.com/10-tips-student-blogging/ for this blog post.
“A writer’s work is made to be published.” -Deb Kelt
Our time here is over. We ended our experience together with a gallery walk. Each of us publishers of works that took us all a process of 3-4 weeks to accomplish. It was a unique experience. There were tears. It was impactful. My wish is to remember it all, but it feels like only bits and pieces of it remain in my mind. So, I blog. It helps me to remember. And I share because it is what Aaron said I should do, and even though he may not know it… he is one of my mentors. One of many now… now that I know what they look like, my list continues to grow.
So… this is hard work… but anything worth doing, is worth working hard for. I know that for sure. I am here, working harder than I have ever worked in the past 10 years as a teacher, and I don’t get paid for it… not in cash at least. What I get is much, much more.
“If you’re going to teach him how to write, first you have to love him. If you can convince him of that, there’s nothing you can’t teach him.” -AVI
Where do I begin… The first thing that comes to mind is how much. How could so much growth happen in just one week and a couple of Saturdays. Then I realized, oh… yea, they’re using the “workshop” model on us. This experience has moved me to my core. Inspiration would do little to describe what has begun to occur… it’s life changing.
This past week, I’ve had the opportunity to think back and acknowledge every moment of literacy in my life, as far back as my memory would allow. I remembered my sister reading to me those Disney books, especially her favorite... Cinderella; I remembered my brother John creating bedtime stories for me, impromptu, off the top of his head, with that same sweet character, Freddy. I wonder if he remembers. My memories scanned across my old house to the four shelves full of encyclopedias that came with the house we moved into when I was five… and my exploration of them as a child. Mozart, I remember Mozart and his genius in one of those books. His story fascinated me, even before I could read those enormous words. All of it came in and out of my memory like gushing, powerful tornadoes, moving in all directions. It was like I’d been given the chance to relive my life, my beginning, my middle, and now. There’s so much to reflect on… only now, after some sleep, can I focus on what jumps out of my memory.
Back in January of 2017, a small group of 9 of my 4th grade students and I met to talk about maybe starting a newspaper club or something that would impact our school in a positive way. After some discussion about going paperless to save the environment, I proposed blogging.
I’d never done it before, and I really wasn’t completely sure what it was, but I thought it would be a good learning opportunity to experiment with, to discover something new with my students. And I knew that at the very least, we would have fun learning together. I heard of this website for kids called Kidblog off of a post on Twitter, and after some research, I knew at least that it was safe for kids. It is a blogging website, specifically designed and created for students.
I decided to let my small group of students lead this adventure. We met during lunch in our classroom, and my only requirements were that everyone in the group participates and everyone is respectful to each other. That was it. They were going to be the leaders of this experiment, and they were more than excited about it. They worked through all of the brainstorming, planning, goal setting, problem solving, and experimenting. I was simply there to help them along the way. If it worked out okay, we would then introduce it to the rest of the class. Once we got started, it caught on like wildfire.
Author: Marina Rodriguez
Photo by Marina Rodriguez
You can't fail at what you don't try... you can't succeed either.
I've come to the realization that teaching today, may not really be teaching at all. Having the abilities and skills necessary to be good “teachers” for students in our modern world, may simply call on us to be guides instead.
Marina Rodriguez is a California native, living and teaching in Texas, and a National Writing Project, Heart of Texas Writing Project, Teacher Consultant.