For the past three years we’ve taken a family road trip to Disneyland. Even though we end up at Disney, this vacation is much more than a Disney trip. We take our time driving down, stopping at many forests, playgrounds, beaches, and visiting friends along the way.
One playground we have stopped at on each trip is at Shell Beach Elementary school in a most beautiful location – Pismo Beach.
I would like to thank this school for an important reminder about the importance of looking beyond the exterior of a building or child. This message is especially important as we start a new school year. One full of possibilities. One full of promise.
The location of the school is just gorgeous. Most classrooms have a view of the ocean. The playgrounds overlook the ocean. It’s so beautiful. Every time we’ve been there, I’ve walked past the staff room, with huge windows and couches facing the water and have thought to myself what a beautiful location this would be to work and learn.
Here are some photos of this gorgeous location:
As I walked by the outside of the school office on this visit, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before: the class lists. They were posted outside of the office. As I looked at the lists, I read the names: Scott, Alicia, Jose, Charlotte, Jordan, Michael, Eva … As I read the names on these class lists, anonymous to me, I began to wonder about each of the students. I wondered about their learning challenges and how these learning challenges are met. I wondered if they had the same learning challenges as the diverse learners who attend our school. I wondered about the level of diversity of their students. What is their ELL population? I wondered about the teachers. Where did they come from? What was their background – both personal and academic. I wondered about the administration. I wondered what the parents and community were like in such a fantastic looking location?
There is so much I wonder about this school. This school, like every school, every classroom, and every student, is so much more than the stunning exterior.
I hope you share in this reminder and take it to heart.
As you start your new year, and meet your new students, please take the time to get to know them. Take time to wonder. Try not to make judgements or assumptions about your student’s exterior, what their previous teacher has said, or based upon his or her reputation. Get to know each students’ strengths, passions, hobbies and, challenges. Get to know about their family and their home-life, but, please don’t judge them based on these factors. They are not their parents. They are not their siblings. Where they live does not define who they are now or will be as they grow up.
As you get to know each student, be open. Be curious. Ask questions. Listen. Be observant. Be approachable. Be helpful. Be real. Be authentic. Be you.
What you learn about each student may surprise you. What you learn will help to inform your practise and best meet the needs of each learner in your class (or school).
Better yet, you might even learn something about yourself.