As I was walking down a middle school hallway yesterday, I glanced up and noticed some hand drawn pictures of student faces with the phrase “I wonder…” at the beginning of each one. I noticed statements like:
–“I wonder how many stars there are in the night sky.”
–“I wonder if horses were ever used for something else.”
–“I wonder what New York looks like from the air.”
–“I wonder who is leading rushing in the NFL.”
–“I wonder how many hairs are on my head.”
I was excited at first, thinking this assignment was from a math class where students were asked something like, “What have you always wondered that might be number/math/geometry related?”
When I noticed the next set of pictures, however, I stopped in my tracks and my heart sank as I read:
–“I wonder why I’m here.”
–“I wonder if I will ever have love.”
–“I wonder who I am.”
–“I wonder what I’m going to do without my mom.”
–“I wonder if there’s really truly any good in this world.”
As I noticed this shift in responses, I began to wonder: what conversations happened AFTERWARDS?
Middle school is rough – probably more so than when I taught “back in the day”. And I get that teaching middle school is like licorice – you either love it or you hate it. But for me… teaching middle school was incredible because of opportunities. Sometimes those opportunities were about shifting perceptions about mathematics. Sometimes those opportunities were about encouraging confidence. Sometimes those opportunities were more personal. Regardless of public opinion about standards and “new math”, teaching comes down to relationships and trust.
I can’t get those pictures out of my mind.
Now to do more of that.