Last week many jurisdictions celebrated teachers. Many flowers, chocolates, donuts, and sweet sentiments were generously given. I’m not ungrateful, but when I received a certain bookmark, I took pause. The quote on the bookmark said, “It takes a big heart to shape little minds.” While I appreciate possibly being seen as big-hearted, I reacted strongly to the idea that my work is to “shape little minds.”
Shape (v.). Is that what I do? When I think of shape (v.), the image of clay on a potter’s wheel comes to mind. While the clay is wet, the possibilities for the potter are limitless; but what choices are available to the pot? Once shaped, dried, or fired, I could glaze it, paint it, fill it, display it, or even break it. But it would essentially remain the same. That doesn’t sound like what I do. Teaching isn’t what I do to children.
Little minds. No. Even the most “challenged” child I have ever taught or known has had so much to teach me about learning. Little bodies, maybe, but not little minds. The joy of teaching is the huge capacity of the human mind to make meaning. The joy for me is that every mind is different. The capacity to grow and learn is often strongest in our youngest students. Opening doors, providing tools, and offering encouragement are the things children and I do for each other.
It does take a big heart to show up every day, to not give up when it is hard, and to hold on to values and beliefs that are sometimes not supported in our current school reality. I consider it a privilege to have my life’s work revolve around children. Our interactions continually transform us. Sometimes I am teacher. More often, I am learner.