Defining Moments

So this week I’d like to talk a little bit about the defining moments in a student’s life, as well as the kind of “learning” that I believe to be the most profound, impactful, and enduring throughout a student’s education. I have to admit that I was inspired to write this post because of the experiences, the stories, and the anecdotes that came out of last week’s China Trips. It was so amazing to watch the students spill off the buses on Friday afternoon, and to hear them go on and on about how, “that trip was totally like the best week ever!”. Not only was the learning immeasurable for most of our students in my opinion, it was the type of learning which will resonate so deeply in their minds for a long time to come. These trips as you all know, are meant to push kids out of their comfort zones, and to give them life experiences that will shape who they are as young adults……..the team building opportunities, the service learning components, the eye opening visits to the orphanages, the chance to face adversity and to take risks…..and the opportunities to fail, and fail, and fail, and then to finally succeed. This learning isn’t necessarily what most people equate with “school” (the classroom concepts and lessons that we work so hard to engage our students with everyday) it’s another kind….a deeper kind that opens up a student’s heart and mind to the world, and to themselves, and to the beauty and the struggle of others……’s the good stuff…..the stuff that transcends the daily classroom experience and endures long past a High School graduation.

We often talk about standards and benchmarks and enduring understandings, but when you think about it, the true enduring takeaways from these trips are defining moments….literal life changing experiences that transform people profoundly forever. Experiences like turning a mountain side into rice terraces for a local Chinese village, and knowing in your heart that you’ve created a sustainable change in a community that will last for generations, and positively effect countless lives………Experiences like volunteering at an orphanage for severely physically challenged kids, with heart wrenching diseases like cerebral palsy, and getting to know them as people and watching how they manage to smile and overcome their adversity in ways that we could never imagine…….Experiences like the “face your fear” high ropes walks, and leap of faith jumps, and long nature hikes, and the team building exercises that make you give of yourself for the betterment of a group…….all of these experiences are defining moments for our young students, and it’s this kind of learning that real “education” is all about.

With all that said, and with the reality/difficulty that we only go on these trips for one week out of the year, the danger in my mind is that we might sit back and wait for this “week without walls” experience before the “good stuff” bubbles up. As I see it, we have the opportunity as educators to uncover these teachable moments everyday, and to find the hidden treasures of a child’s learning embedded in the daily grind of the school year……..through our advisory program, and our house system, and our service learning initiatives, and most importantly through our individual classes, we have ample opportunities to focus on the chance that a defining moment could happen at any time. We should always be armed and ready to teach kids about how to be empathic, and about how to respond to adversity, and about the importance of giving back to others, and about kindness, and about how their mood can effect their lives and the lives of others, and about forgiveness, and leadership, and passion and perseverance…….and so on and so on.

I’d like to ask that in the future, when you teach your students all about algebraic concepts or reading comprehension strategies and the writing process, or the proper format for research based citations, or any of the rest of it, that you keep your good eye wide open to the opportunities that present themselves each and every day……….opportunities to celebrate the failures…..opportunities to celebrate empathy and kindness and the taking of risks…….opportunities that if acted upon will define the lives of our students and shape who they are as people…….that’s where the real education lies in my opinion, in those life lessons that are very much the true enduring understandings. Welcome back everyone and thank you for all that you gave to our students this past week……the trips were a tremendous success and you all deserve a huge thank you from our community. Oh yeah, Happy Mother’s Day too! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week………
Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school – Albert Einstein

Article – Teaching Failure

This is Water – David Foster Wallace (Thank you Geoff Smith……poignant. Please watch this immediately! VPN in China)

TED Talk – In Search of the Man Who Broke My Neck (Joshua Prager)