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Focus on What Shines in the Classroom and in Life

I put their outlines on the overhead like I did everyone else’s.

“Adam engages his heart here. He writes and writes till he connects to the subject matter. It’s an important step.”

I went on, “I have to teach you structure but you need to find a way to connect your head and heart. If you can do it this way through free writing on the topic, great. Some of you might find a different way to engage the heart. Now, from this freewrite we can build an outline.”

I went on to another student’s essay who was further along. My student from Asia is concerned about “getting it right” which seems to block her creativity. However, in her writing the other day I noticed what beautiful sensory details she added to one of her essays. I commented on it. I told her it connected us to her story because she seemed connected. Her gifts and the route to her creativity, however, were completely different from the other student’s method.

Students need to be reminded what specific gifts they bring to the classroom. When we can do that–point it out for them in any way– they will run with it. Their writing improves, both the creativity and the structure.

I wonder often how our teaching affects students’ lives outside the classroom. Can they more easily think for themselves, align their heart with their head in other actions?

I believe we have the opportunity to help our students open their hearts to themselves. And from my own background, I see how dangerous it can be to try to please the teacher without connecting to our own inner wisdom.

I never learned to align my heart and head in school. It was about conforming and pleasing the teacher or whoever was in authority. Not so good for finding oneself. Not so good for nurturing one’s unique talents. I secretly envied those rebellious students, or those students who found a niche in some special interest like drama. One of the people in my life was not a conformer. He started a neighborhood band on someone’s rooftop and had a friend who walked bees on a string. He’s the one who found his dream job and purpose long ahead of the rest of us.

Maybe it was growing up in a family and community that emphasized competition and comparison instead of creativity and self reflection. In any case, I wish I had learned to harness the suppressed creativity. Instead, like so many, it formed depression in me.

As a teacher, it’s simple to tune into someone’s gifts and talents in the classroom.

The temptation is to look for THINGS to CORRECT. But as a teacher, I need to remember to look for THINGS that SHINE. I can get bored grading papers. So a little tweak in my approach can go a long way in helping the student tap into his own genius. It also helps my own energy level. I have more energy when I look for “what is right” with a paper instead of “what is wrong.”

Perhaps we don’t want to think about the responsibility we have with each student. Perhaps it’s overwhelming that we really can and do make a difference. I believe we really can make a difference wherever we are. When we look for what shines in another, we help them see it themselves. We all have so many opportunities in the day to do this for others. It uplifts everyone.