photo © 2008 Stav | more info (via: Wylio)
For years I’ve wanted a “welcome” mat outside my classroom, or at least a sign to that effect, and lately I’ve recognized new reasons for it. It’s occurred to me now and then that being welcoming is a way more important precondition for high-quality teaching than I had thought. Here I’m thinking, of course, of being welcoming to the students – giving them the feeling that they’ll always find an atmosphere of conviviality in my classroom – but I’m also interested in being welcoming to just about anything – any idea, circumstance, person, or problem. I want the door of my teaching to be wide open. I want to always remember and thoroughly understand that the universe of my classroom is spacious enough to effortlessly house whatever enters it, be it a sane or silly idea, a happy or sad student, a successful or failed lesson. The world we live in easily accommodates countless forms of weather (storms one day, sunshine the next, mist the next, drought, winds, stillness), and my classroom can just as easily hold whatever happens to arise. If students seem to be sleeping inside themselves through most of a class, I can say to myself, “Welcome, sleepiness”. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t work to awaken the students; in fact, accepting the sleepiness is the best way to do that, for it reminds me that my classroom can just as easily say welcome to wide-awakeness and wonderment. Like the weather, one moment the students can be daydreaming, the next moment mindfully discussing a dense passage in A Tale of Two Cities. I’m learning to welcome it all.
I love this! It reminds me of when I used to teach in the graduate film school at CCNY. Oftentimes some of my students would be so exhausted and sleep deprived from having been up for days shooting a film project, that they would sit in class nodding off. Finally after a few years of frustration over this, I started announcing a policy: anyone who can't stay awake during class, please just put your head down on your desk and take a 20 or 30 minute nap (the classes were long - 3 or 4 hours). Then I would gently encourage them to wake up, and usually they would rejoin the class refreshed and ready to be involved and engaged. By welcoming their sleepiness and not fighting it, they were able to move through it. Of course this approach might not work with teenagers who can sleep through the day - as we say in our household, "You know teenagers - up at the crack of noon!" But it's kind of in the same idea.
Love your blog! Keep 'em coming...
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