Sometimes, we are guilty of not giving children enough credit. We look at them as younger and less experienced and therefore we do not always take time to pause and REALLY listen to what they have to say. Although I try to be very careful not to let this happen in my classroom, occasionally it does. I could miss out on a great opportunity because it’s the fourth time they have raised their hand during my mini-lesson or maybe three people have already gone to the restroom during my small group teaching. I begin to think that I cannot possibly have another interruption during my instruction. Unfortunately, it happens at times and we miss out on great opportunities!
Thankfully, yesterday, I had one of the precious opportunities to REALLY hear what a student needed to say and it was exactly what I needed to hear that day.
As I was reading The Giving Tree aloud, one of my students raised his hand and said in a quiet, yet confident voice, “Mr. Vaughn, I know the meaning of this story.” For those of you that have read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, it is about a friendship between a boy and a tree. As the boy grows older, he starts forgetting about his friendship with the tree because he would rather have things that he finds important like money, a house, and traveling. The tree gives him literally EVERYTHING that she has to make him happy. She gives him her apples to sell. She offers her branches to build a house. She offers her trunk to make a boat. Finally, as an old man, the boy returns to the tree and finds that his friend is exactly what he needs as he sits on the stump that remains.
I’ve heard many describe the boy as selfish. I’ve heard others describe the tree as showing unconditional love. However, my student offered a perspective that I had not yet heard. I thought it was beautiful and should be shared.
After raising his hand to offer his own perspective, he calmly shared his thoughts aloud.
“I think that the tree loved the boy so much! She wanted the boy to be with her forever but he stopped coming to see her. She gave him all of her parts because she knew that if he couldn’t come be with her that she COULD go be with him by giving him her parts. Then they could be together forever!”
I paused for a moment to take in his response. Did a six-year-old really just share such a powerful perspective of the unconditional love in the friendship of the boy and the tree? I was truly blown away. I could see other students looking at him as he shared his perspective and it caused them to start thinking more about the book as well.
This critical thinking moment from a child in 1st grade was exactly what I needed to restore my passion for the lesson that day. I find that the passion of teaching is not rekindled through training, curriculum, and mandates. The passion of teaching is in the small moments. It’s in the moments that we take for granted. Moments like these awaken a strong desire to not only teach material but to offer our students a PASSION for learning!
If you have stumbled upon my blog post as a teacher, I encourage you to not let the little moments pass. I’ve been guilty and this moment helped me to see the importance of taking time from the busy minute-by-minute schedule to really listen. Take time to hear your students. You never know what powerful perspective can be offered from their young lives.
If you are reading my blog post as a parent, I encourage you to ask your children deep questions. You might just be surprised by what they have to share with you. Ask them “big meaning” questions. Talk to them about stories that show compassion, hope, and faith. Get their perspective on the stories. You won’t regret it!
Children make this world a beautiful place by sharing their perspective on things that matter. Take time to hear them! They just might “know the meaning of this…”