Sunday, August 20, 2006
ON TEACHING: Kids and Caterpillars
As I was reading this morning about the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies, I began to wonder whether the same kind of astonishing transformation happens in people, and specifically my students. Every year across the earth, trillions of caterpillars undergo a complete transformation – a change so thorough that it literally remakes them into entirely new creatures. A butterfly is not just a re-tooled caterpillar; it’s a completely new and different animal. As one writer put it, it would be as if you dropped off a bicycle at the repair shop and when you came back, it had turned into a 747 jumbo jet. This marvelous rebirth happens on a daily basis all over the world, and I wonder if it might also happen in my classroom, without my realizing it. If tiny worm-like creatures can magically become butterflies, then perhaps my students can transform themselves into something new and amazing. Maybe it happens every day, right in front of me – as the students are analyzing a passage from Shakespeare, or writing paragraphs, or just gazing out at the promising trees and sky. Maybe they are becoming brand new, over and over again, before my very eyes. After all, few of us have ever stopped to notice and marvel at a caterpillar as it’s going through its metamorphosis, and, similarly, perhaps I’ve just never been aware of the radical changes that are happening all around me in my classroom. Perhaps “butterflies” have been bursting out on a daily basis, and I’ve never known it.