I am constantly thinking about teaching and learning. That can’t be surprising given my job and the fact that I parent a kindergartener, but there’s also something ingrained in my soul that makes me constantly think about what teachers must be experiencing at each season of the school year.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised that a Reddit post transported me to my teaching life as I was lying in bed on Christmas Eve, aimlessly scrolling social media. The post said, “Now that I’m grown and live in my own apartment with my boyfriend I realize that pretty much all of the specialness and magic of Christmas was actually just all the work my mom did to make it special.” Because it was the night before Christmas, and my husband and I had just finished working on some of those special moments, it hit me in a particular way. Then, I remembered how my first-year teaching at the Francis W. Parker Charter School in Devens, MA also made me constantly feel like I was teaching in a magical place. There were frustrations, to be sure, and not everything was smooth (is it ever in a people-centered organization?), but it also felt like there was a kind of magic that allowed students to feel genuinely good about coming to middle and high school every day. The relationships were different, the work more focused, the conversations about deeply important dilemmas moved the staff forward; it felt markedly different than any other school I’d seen.
A year or two later, it became clearer to me: the magic was an illusion; the substance wasn’t. The relationships were deeper, the work was synchronized, and the conversations were planned out and well facilitated. I experienced hard work as magic. I believe a lot of our students did, too. I couldn’t appreciate all of it at the very beginning because I wasn’t even sure exactly what I was looking at. Over time, I saw more clearly see how our coordinated efforts allowed for much stronger work, even if it sometimes moved a little slower. All our efforts, even the tiny ones, added up to something I couldn’t put words to but could feel.
All of this is to say, if you’re a teacher or a parent, and you are putting in what feels like enormous effort and dedication into what you’re doing, AND you feel like the kids might not always see it, it might be that they are experiencing it differently. So take a break, allow yourself some ease, but don’t worry—they feel the magic.
Image: Screenshot of Reddit post.