Awestruck

So I just finished reading a book that I have been dying to get my hands on, and honestly, it was better than I had hoped for. It connected so magically to our lives as educators, and to the opportunity that we have every single day to be astonished, mesmerized, and left in an authentic state of wonder and awe by the beauty, growth and learning of our students. The book is simply titled, Awe, by Dacher Keltner, who first inspired me when delivering a keynote presentation at the 2020 AAIE conference in New York City. I have been regularly following his work at the Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley since then, and so much of what he researches and shares directly relates to our personal and professional lives as we strive to be our best selves for our kids and for each other. Anyway, if you are interested in learning more about this elusive and curious emotion, and how you can purposely bring a little more AWE into your own lives, then get reading…it’s an inspiring read that will profoundly connect you to the world around you, as well as to the people and students in your lives.

I remember a moment of awe that happened to me not that long ago, which left me wide-eyed, emotional, and super, super grateful. I had stopped by an early childhood classroom one afternoon and decided to sit down to watch. The kids were all seated on the rug and counting out loud the number of days that we had been in school so far this year, and of course it was super cute. As part of the lesson they were also learning how to draw the numbers on small square pieces of blue paper, and one lucky child was asked to put their own number drawing up on the display calendar for the class to see. Well, this little one was struggling a bit to form the numbers with her pencil so one of the teachers brought her to the table where I was sitting to practice…she was very excited, and so was I.

The child tried a couple of times to write out the number 24 but it simply came out as squiggly little lines, so the teacher held the child’s hand and helped her write it down. After a few of these practices together, the teacher then let the child trace the numbers individually several times on her own until she felt confident enough to try again without any help. The whole time I was watching, I was amazed by the sheer determination and tremendous effort on the part of the child to learn, and I was inspired by the teacher’s encouragement and willingness to let the child struggle without coming to her rescue. Every few seconds the child would stop and look up at me and smile, giving me a look of “I got this” before putting her head back down and getting on with the learning at hand. Finally, after many tries and lots of struggle, the child took a brand new piece of paper and drew a beautiful number 24 on the little blue square, and then joyfully ran to hang it up on the chart for all the world to see…I sat there in awe of this child’s perseverance, beauty and inherent desire to learn.

I was a little overwhelmed in that moment honestly, which is what the emotion of awe does to us, not just by the natural beauty of a young child so authentically learning, but also by how fortunate I am to be an educator. To be able to witness moments like that in my life is such a tremendous gift, and as I eventually composed myself I felt my heart swelling up with joy knowing that magical, awe-inspiring moments like these are available to me behind each and every classroom door, each and every day of the year. Keltner defines “awe” as “the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world”, and if you think about it, as educators we are exposed to these moments and feelings  all the time…how lucky are we? Okay, pick up this book right away and let it inspire you to seek out those moments of awe more intentionally…we all need a little bit more awe in our lives. Have a wonderful week ahead and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper – W.B. Yeats

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