I just returned from Spring Break. Not “SPRING BREAK” like the college kids sometimes partake in, but nonetheless, a break from work, during the season of spring. This year, my family was lucky enough to travel to Seabrook Island in South Carolina, which was everything this thirtysomething wants out of a spring break — sunny days, beaches, pools, bike rides, and a general sense of “island time.”
My son, who is weeks shy of being four, also loved Seabrook… so much so that he’s been saying how sad he is since we returned home! While vacationing, we had many moments that are safely tucked in my memory, but one in particular that really resonated. During this short week, I watched him go from being afraid of stepping toward deeper waters to being a risk taker. Not a careless one, but one exhibiting just the right amount of risk that you need in order to take on something new and ultimately grow from the experience.
One day, we were in a VERY crowded, small pool meant for little ones with the deepest part being only 4.5 feet. We started in the shallow end, throwing sinking rings, and reaching down to get them. At this point, he didn’t even need to go under water. Before we knew it, we were in the “deep” end of 3 feet. As my husband threw the rings, Frankie kept trying to dive down and retrieve them. He couldn’t quite figure out how to get his head down, as I told him “bum to the sky!” But he kept trying. He jumped up and down in the water, as my husband, my parents and I stood to the side. Then, my favorite moment of the trip occurred. He whispered to himself just loud enough for my mother to hear it the first time, alert me, and for me to hear it the second time: “I can do this.”
I can do this.
My son was talking to himself. Encouraging himself. Believing in himself. And working through a problem on his own. He was in an environment with just enough challenge that when he swam to the bottom of the pool, grabbed that ring, and shot up out of the water, he was ecstatic.
I can do this.
It is amazing what those four words did for my almost four-year old. I thought about when I’ve used those words in my life and how powerful they can be. Then, I of course thought about my students. There are some students who live by the “I can do this” mantra, and there are others who need us to provide them with a different set of words: “You can do this.”
Spring break is over, and as soon as I returned home, my island time/zen mojo was gone, and I was making lists, doing laundry, and generally driving my husband crazy. I am eager to see my students – some of whom will have had wonderful breaks and traveled to adventurous locations, while others will have had a different, less exciting, experience.
I only have 48 days left with my current class. And if you’ve read my blogs before, especially this one, you know that I get emotional when the year ends. So I’m going to take advantage of those 48 days and make the most of them. I’m going to make certain they are full of just enough risk and challenge that both my students and I grow during that time.
To challenge myself, I’ll try new teaching methods. In Social Studies, I plan to engage my students in a personalized learning experience. I’ve taken on personalized learning in math, and next year, I want to take on Social Studies, so this will be good practice. I’ll show my students the expected learning outcomes, provide them with resources, and then let them design their own learning experience to demonstrate their knowledge.
We all have those “NEXT YEAR, I’ll do this” moments in the spring where we envision perfect scenarios with a new crop of students the following school year. Why should I wait for next year? This is the best time to try new things because my class is a well-oiled machine. They can help me grow, as long as I’m willing to take a risk and try out something new.
And that goes for my students, as well. In these last 48 days, I’ll push them… to walk a little further in the deep end, say to themselves, I can do it, dive deep, and rejoice when they discover that they too can reach those rings.