Sit in a Student Desk
The Advantage to Considering A New Perspective
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. (Atticus Finch, from To Kill A Mockingbird)
I Was A Student Once
While my k-12 educational experience was similar to what I teach today, I have not had the opportunity to be a student in my classroom. I have not always considered things from every perspective of the classroom. I realized that this had to change. Recently,I have spent part of my planning period sitting in different locations to gain new perspectives and consider anything that needs improvement.
Sitting at a student desk reminds me of my purpose and who I have the opportunity to serve each day.
Dr. Deanna Oliver wrote a chapter titled “Stop Ignoring Students’ Personal Space” for the book 100 No-Nonsense Things That All Teachers Should Stop Doing. Her focus in the chapter was for teachers to look at the decisions made in the classroom and consider how they are impacting students. Dr. Oliver asked a question that stopped me and has honestly challenged me to spend the time to focus on what things are like for students and build on that perspective. In the book she asks, “When was the last time you sat at the student desk and had an adult stand next to you?”
When I read the chapter, not only did I consider what the words were referring to specifically, but I kept thinking to myself, “When was the last time you sat at a student desk period?” To understand someone, as Atticus Finch says in the well-known novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, you climb into a person’s skin. One way to see things from another person’s point of view is by sitting where other people sit.
Could I Make This More Interesting?
Sitting at a desk different from mine, reminds me that stretching myself to make class a little more interesting is worth it. I have come back to the question, would I want to be a student in my classroom? And, would I want my three kids to be students in my classroom? There are limitations in the school setting, but it is always worth asking the question, “Could I make this more interesting?” In chapter 11, of the 100 No-Nonsense Things That All Teachers Should Stop Doing, author Livia Chan places the emphasis on finding a way to plan lessons that are original, filled with effective questioning, student empowerment, inquiry and have multiple entry points. Livia’s goal is to find a way for her students to learn something new each day.
As I thought about Livia’s words along with the theme of the classic novel, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, I was crushed by how disappointed the protagonist Scout was when her vision of school was destroyed on the first day of school. Each time I think about Scout, I see a curious individual who has an extraordinary drive to learn and change the world! It makes me incredibly sad that students might leave school disappointed, wishing there would have been more opportunities for challenges and growth.
Find a Way to Celebrate
It is easy to fall into the monotony of everyday life in the classroom. The minutes turn into hours, and hours morph into days, and then weeks, months, and years. Before we know it, another year has passed. Fortunately, a principal in North Carolina, who happens to be the author of The Pepper Effect, reminds me to look for something to celebrate each Monday. Sean Gaillard introduced #celebrateMonday for people to focus on, and notice something that can be shared to inspire others weekly. Each Sunday, I start thinking about what I will share on Monday. Focusing on celebration and gratitude to start the week puts me in the best mindset.
Students are worth celebrating. The opportunities we have in education are worth celebrating, and the little moments are worth celebrating. Sean Gillard speaks about pausing to listen, leaning into the small moments, ultimately building on them.There is always something to celebrate if we dig a little. Sometimes the celebration revolves around the work that we have the privilege of reading. Words stand the test of time in To Kill A Mockingbird, and beg to be studied, appreciated and celebrated. Imagine how much more enjoyable the classroom is for students when we focus on celebrating the good rather than giving energy to the negative moments.
Don’t Make Students Feel Like They Are Interrupting
In To Kill A Mockingbird, exceptional attorney and parent Atticus Finch finds a way to embrace his daughter Scout’s curiosity and wonder. He never treats her like she is less than or is interrupting his mission. Educator Alana Stanton talks about this topic in her chapter of the 100 No-Nonsense Things That All Teachers Should Stop Doing.
Stanton is passionate about treating students “like an open door that welcomes them in with each conversation. She says that the moment our students walk through the doors, we need to be prepared to be on their time because they are our customers. The part of her chapter that stood out to me as an educator, but more importantly as a parent, was when she said, “every child you work with, every student you work with is someone’s joy. They are someone’s everything. We need to start taking the time to listen to student needs, dreams and the stories that matter. When we do this, we truly take the time to show students that they are valued”.
If You Look For It, You Will Find ItWhen we look for opportunities to embrace new perspectives, do our best to inspire students with interesting work, find ways to celebrate small moments, and treat our students like they are the main thing, classrooms become the places we imagined when we first decided to go into education. As Judge Taylor says in To Kill A Mockingbird, "people generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” If you are looking for the students’ perspective, sit where they sit.