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Looking at Your Students in the Future Tense

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Voice of Experience

This week, educator Brenda Dyck reflects on a night spent watching some of her students from the past perform before an audience. The experience was an eye-opening one; Dyck wonders how she missed some of the potential she saw realized in those students. The night reminded her that "our students are still 'works in progress' and that all of us play a role in the completion of that work." Included: Links to additional articles that shed light on the challenging middle school years.

"You know, Giono said to me, there are also times in life when a person has to rush off in pursuit of hopefulness."

-- Norma L. Goodrich, Afterward from The Man Who Planted Trees

After a week of tripping over backpacks in the hall, chasing down students for assignments, and dealing with yet another bullying incident, I wondered if there might be an easier way to earn a living. Even the most vigilant educator needs an occasional reminder that their efforts with students are contributing to future successes, especially when the present seems void of any evidence that they are embracing our efforts.

Last night, I got a timely reminder at an Arts Celebration Night at our K-12 school. Here, I was treated to a glimpse of the young people my former students are becoming. Having taught many of these high school students at one time or another, I found it especially rewarding to see former students profiled in such a positive way, doing things that three or four years ago my colleagues and I would not have thought possible.

More Voices of Experience!

Have you seen these Voice of Experience essays from previous weeks?

MY STUDENTS?

One of my former students, William, was busy helping with the sound system. When I taught William I was lucky to have him finish an assignment, let alone contribute to such an important element of a concert. Come to think of it though, William always shone when given the opportunity to work with his hands. In my mind's eye, I remember being able to count on William to vacuum a mess up in my class or mop a spill in the hallway. Today, he was feeling pretty important as he ran around looking for sound cords after school.

Then there was Anita, a quiet, insecure girl who was in my class several years ago. Anita struggled with low self-esteem and depression; each year after Grade 6 seemed more troubled than the one before. Tonight, however, I saw a new and confident Anita emerge as she danced across the stage in a dramatic lead role. Somewhere between Grade 6 and today, Anita had found a way to express what was going on inside of her and convert her insecurities into creativity.

Most surprising to me was Blake. A few years ago Blake was an introverted boy with few friends. His monotone voice made everyone think Blake was a little slow and uninteresting. When he got up to sing a ballad last night, I wondered where this incredible voice had come from and wondered how his talent had passed me by three years ago.

PART OF A BIGGER PICTURE

In the back of the darkened gym, sandwiched between my middle school colleagues, I kept thinking about a number of other performers, who in my memory were once nervous, troublesome, or sad Grade 6 students. Some probably still are, but for one special night, they showed the audience their potential and reminded me that I am an important link in a long continuum of educators teaching young people who are still "works in progress."

From where I sat, my job now looked pretty good!

Brenda Dyck teaches at Master's Academy and College in Calgary, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching sixth grade math, Brenda works with her staff in the area of technology integration. Her "Electronic Thread" column is a regular feature in the National Middle School Association's Journal, Middle Ground. Brenda is a teacher-editor for Midlink magazine.


 


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