There’s a shift that has to take place when you’re first learning to make art. It happened when I started drawing. I remember it when I got serious about being a musician. At some point the new artist has to quit looking at the paper or concentrating on the fret board. His attention must turn fully to the subject. He has to see it fresh with new eyes or truly hear it with new ears.
My mother is a painter and she’s the first one who pointed this out to me. She said her students would often exclaim how painting helped them see the world around them differently.
It wasn’t just a stop sign or a bench on the way to work anymore. It was light splashing on metal and wood, leaving subtle shades and dark shapes most people never notice.
Taking this truth to the classroom, what does the skilled teacher see that everyone else might miss? I’m sure there are many things, but I’ll suggest one that made school come alive for me.
The light I finally noticed or the music I began to truly hear in school is possibility.
Possibilities pulse around us in the classroom maybe more than most other places because we are dealing with young lives. They are bursting with potential. The promise of what could be can be nearly overwhelming when we stop to take it in.
A typical class of 25 elementary students is packed with some 1,500 years of life remaining, if all the students live into their seventies. That’s 15 centuries! Have you considered that before?
Imagine the good things that could fill those days and hours, many of them due in part to the slow, steady sculpting and shaping you apply to minds and hearts through your time together.
Imagine the lives they will touch in turn.
And consider the possibilities in the short term too. Maybe every day won’t be filled with miracles, but what is possible every week in your class? Do you still get excited thinking about what could be?
Students can discover their passions.
They might experience for the joy of learning like never before.
They can enjoy the satisfaction of seeing a dream come true.
And that tough student you have this year? Couldn’t he be part of your most powerful story one day? And couldn’t you be part of his?
If we, the leaders of our classrooms and hallways, don’t see these possibilities, how will the students?
And seeing them is a necessary step in any of them becoming reality.
There is a force in school that would reduce every amazing possibility to an A through E, every life to an adjective. From fear of disappointment or fear of hard work, far too many have stopped looking for more.
When they only talk only of good days, bad days, losers and A-students, train your heart to notice what could be. Pray you won’t miss it and that you won’t give up.
Find the excitement in those possibilities most teachers won’t see.
Keep work hard to bring them to life.
Share the stories so others will see them too.