It seems counterintuitive but gratitude can actually help us find the hidden opportunities that lead to creativity and innovation in the classroom.
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The Hidden Opportunities
I remember the afternoon. It was about seven years ago. I was tired and it was blazingly hot outside and I simply didn’t want to stand next to the idling busses while our students left for the day. But it was more than that. Bus duty felt like a waste of time. I had lessons to plan and projects to grade and a track team that would be waiting for me in minutes.
So, I typed out a simple tweet, “I hate bus duty.”
A few teachers tweeted back with “I hear you” and “me, too.” This was, after all, the age before Twitter offered the like or retweet buttons.
Then I went out and grumbled through bus duty and moved on to track practice.
When I came back to my computer, I noticed a response from the always bold and always thoughtful William Chamberlain.
“I love bus duty,” he wrote.
I shook my head. Was he serious?
Then, in the next tweet he wrote, “You are the first face they see in the morning and the last face they see in the afternoon.”
He wasn’t trying to be trite or overly positive. If you know William at all, you’ll see that he is about as realistic as it gets. But in this case, he was 100% serious.
I had never even considered the potential opportunity in something like bus duty. But William’s words changed my perspective. I began to see things like bus duty and playground duty as a chance to connect with students and to smile and to give fist bumps. It was a chance to see students in a different element — to see them, not merely as students, but as people, complete with the same fears and insecurities and moments of fun and laughter as I experienced at that age.
This change in mindset is often the first step toward making small innovations. For example, my friends Javier and Chad reframed the positives of summer school to then transform the space into a STEM camp for failing students and a lab school for teachers. My friend Jeremy convinced me that the rigid hour-long block of grammar I was required to teach could become a chance to embrace student choice through blogging and podcasts.
The point is, there are tons of little moments like this in education that can shift from being dreary chores to amazing opportunities.
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