When you look at this picture what do you see?
When I looked at this photo yesterday, my eye immediately saw the poor condition of the classroom wall. This struck me, in some way, to my core, because I know when I took these photos twenty years ago I was not focused on that. It makes me feel sad to think that is what you might notice.
What was I trying to capture in these photos? The comfort of the rug where we gathered together everyday and sat criss-cross applesauce and shared our ideas. The usefulness of the wordlists posted up on the walls to help them with their reading. The productivity of the schedule that helped us prepare for what was going to be happening during our jam packed days. The wonder of all the amazing words we thought of that start with the letter P that we could take on a picnic!! The fun of the ghost poem to help us learn to count, which made us smile. The joy of the children in their costumes, so happy to tell us what they were wearing and have their photo taken. I was trying to capture all the good, the joy, the hard work, the learning. The feeling of our space. The pride and the ownership that we created together. I certainly never wanted the focus to be on something as irrelevant as the walls in need of paint.
I can say the children did not give a hoot that our walls were not nicely painted. I can say that the walls did not bother my teaching. Our story time was not less joyful. Our building, creating and exploring was not hindered. None of us felt that we were less because there were other classrooms, somewhere else that had brand new painted classroom walls. This was our room, this was what we knew, and we loved it. I never said to them, “Look at the these beat up walls we have in our room.” No, we kept it clean, we decorated it with our work. We took care of our room. This was our first grade classroom, and it’s what we knew. We didn’t focus on what was bad or missing. We didn’t compare it to any other room. We admired, and we were proud of what we were building, and doing inside of the four walls of our room. As far as we knew it was the best first grade classroom around!!! I was striving to be the best teacher I could be and they we soaking in, creating and growing to the best of their abilities.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Unknown
I feel that we easily can focus on the deficits, on what is wrong, and missing, at one end of the spectrum, and on the other end of the spectrum point out and focus only on the outcome as defined by a test, and what we are failing/passing at. I feel we need to bring our attention back to the process, the activity, the emotion, that runs along that spectrum. Let’s not focus on what we can’t do, what we don’t have, and let’s not only measure end results that leave out so much growth, life, and feeling. Let’s use what we have and measure growth, and progress as individuals. Let’s see the gains of humans that cannot be measured by a test but by connection and feeling. Please look at this photo and see all of the learning, growth, and connection that took place. See the beauty of our creations on the walls, the joyful smiles and the tight knit community. Then my heart can feel happier.
“Do what you can with what you have and where you are.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Contributor: Kay Lybeck
Listen to Kay Lybeck’s Podcast – Courage To Navigate Together