“How is she reading a book out here?” was what I heard from the fly-fishing guide floating next to us down the Yellowstone River in Montana last week. I was wearing my waders, rowing our boat (which at that point had dropped an anchor), thrown out loads of casts, but was now relaxing in MY way. I was taking in this scenery MY way. I was experiencing the river in a way that enhanced ME. However, it was not the right way according to this onlooker.
Minutes before I heard this quiet question carry across the moving water, I snapped this photo. I had tears welled up in my eyes motivating me to capture the moment. My senses were filled as I listened to the river flowing ahead of me, cows mooing on the bank off to my left, saw the mountains surrounding me, felt the water moving underneath, breathed the fresh air–the freshest air– into my lungs. I thought to myself, this is a magical experience. I am so very lucky…so very grateful for this experience.
To this onlooker, who didn’t know me well, or at all even, my behavior seemed almost like blasphemy. It appeared to him that I was disrespecting the river and the my experience was not what he believed it should be.
I thought about my students. I thought about myself as a teacher as we gear up for the new year. I do NOT want to be this onlooker who doesn’t know my student and misinterprets his/her actions and diminishes the experience that the student might be creating for him or herself.
There are times when a speaker is addressing the class, be it a student, a guest or myself, and it appears that kids aren’t listening or taking in the information that way that I think that they should. There are times where kids have a book out during other instructional time where maybe it doesn’t seem appropriate to ME. I watch my daydreamers as they soak in the world around them. I don’t know what is going on in a student’s mind. EVER. Sometimes I might be faked out as a student jots notes or gives me eye contact, but am I also faked out by the student who is off in the distance doing something that might not fit my idea of the experience they should be having? I am quite certain I am.
One of my goals as I approach my new set of sixth graders is to look at each student with a fresh, non judging pair of eyes when it comes to engagement. I want to invite every student in to the learning in our classroom, but I also want to honor the fact that this engagement might be so very high, as it was for me on the Yellowstone River, when it might not look like it to an observer.
Each of us experiences this world in a different way. I hope to inspire and excite students so that each of their senses might be stimulated the way that mine were on the river last week. I want them to feel like they can take in the experiences in our classroom the way that works best for them so that they are getting the most out of our day.
As I read about being mindful and setting up a mindful classroom, I have been reading about the value of daydreaming and taking a minute away from the current activity or investigation so that one might get the most out of that experience. For me, taking a break from the fishing to read enhanced my experience. When I casted the next time I hooked two fish at one time on my nymp rig. Although nymphing on Montana waters is not the most challenging way to fly-fish, I had success when I returned to my “task” of fly-fishing. My experience on the water that day gave me pause immediately and as I reflect on it now, I pause to ensure that I am open to my students and the feelings that they might have throughout their day in our classroom.