A year or so ago I was looking for short stories to use in my class and came upon the wonderful “What Do Fish Have To Do With Anything?” A story about a boy and his attempts to find the cure to unhappiness. The story is full of beautiful moments and Words of the Wiser to reference my most wonderful Notice and Note. Two instances stick out to me so much and as my students were reading and thinking about their reading today they noticed them as well. I have related this story to a life lesson in the past and now as I think I feel impressed to extend the beautiful words of Avi to my teaching practice.
Words of the Wiser 1: Fish Who Live in Caves Have No Eyes
Ok by itself this might not seem like wise words, more of a riddle really. But let me explain. In the story, a boy named William was taught a lesson about fish that live in caves surrounded by darkness, his teacher explains that due to this constant darkness they adapt and no longer require eyes. In the story it is in reference to those who are unhappy, dwelling on unhappiness become unable to see good, to see the light around us. In a teaching lens, I can’t help but connect this to so many things.
How many students know they have a reputation as trouble, they live with it daily. Teachers look for them first when trouble comes, this frustrates the kids and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We place these students in a cave, we do not help them find their way out, they get lost in the darkness and can no longer see.
The students who struggle academically, who know themselves as levels, not learners because despite the cutesy clip art they know the code. They know the polar bears are the top of the class and the baby seal is the bottom. These students take our lead, they don’t put themselves in the cave we do it with our levels and our labels. Teachers need to be the light that kids come to, that path to success, not the barrier.
What about the student who never hears celebrations, only hears critiques? I have heard it said that leaders are there to point out the areas others need to work on. No good leaders have said that but all the same, it has been said. That somehow pointing out faults instead of celebrating strength can in some way build a stronger foundation… Constructive feedback leads us all to light, a chance to see the beauty in learning, “constructive” criticism is still criticism and is a one-way ticket to a dark cave for our learners. It is about how we lead and guide our students that really shows who we are as a leader, both in and outside our classrooms.
Words of the Wiser 2: What a person needs is always more than they say.
Now in the story, this is referring to cake and suggested serving amounts but it got me thinking about how our students rarely ask for what they really need. They get by asking for as little help as possible. This I predict is due to the stigma attached to be the one “needing” help, again back to labels (please try to tell me they are needed). Academically, Socially, Emotionally our students often need more than they ask for and thus more than we give. I am working more and more as of late trying to break down the barriers that keep my students from asking for what they need from me, teaching them how to ask for what they need is difficult.
We have work to do. Stories are a great way to learn lessons but what we do with what we have learned is the real difference maker. Today I was reminded of the fact that I need to make sure my students do not spend too much time in the dark, the behavioral dark, academic dark or even social dark. I can’t let them lose sight of the goal. Not some academic focused lifelong learner goal but just the goal of happiness. Balanced and Joyful Learning. I need to help my students see that for every one of them this goal is possible when we work together. I need to build this message more into my practice. It is easy to say things like “lose the labels”, readers know I have said it a lot lately, it is a completely different thing to be purposeful in our practice to reverse the damage these labels do.
Something to Ponder.