Can you imagine walking two hours a day to retrieve fresh water to drink? Can you imagine what that must feel like? When I think about that type of hardship, it makes many (if not all) of the challenges I face each day seem so very simple. So very doable.
It’s funny how sometimes ideas, themes and patterns surround us at just the right time. If we pay attention, they can “feed” us in new ways. Here was my path over the last six days.
I was observing a model lesson where 7th graders were wrestling with a NYT article about Niger children missing school because they were searching for water. It was interesting to listen to the students process how difficult that would be. They were surprised to learn that the article was written in 2012, not many years ago. All of the students agreed that they sometimes think their life is hard until they think about other people who (like these children) have it even harder. The next day, I saddled up to one of my 8th grade lovebugs to listen to her read out loud. She was working hard to map her way through her independent reading book, A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park. This bright, thoughtful 8th grader said she had a hard time imagining not being able to go over to her kitchen sink and turn on all of the water she wanted and needed…whenever she wanted and needed it. She also said she knew there was a boy in the story who also had struggles that she didn’t have in her life and she felt bad for him. This weekend, my husband and I were flipping through movies and we came upon The Good Lie (2014). This movie, coupled with the connected learning experiences from last week that I mentioned above, provided for a reason to pause. This, especially true, as I literally pushed pause at the end of the movie because it ended with the following quote:
If you want to fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. I read it several times. Of course, if you’ve read about or done work with the Lost Boys of Sudan, you know that this African Proverb has deep meaning to the ways in which the thousands of orphaned boys (children) worked to escape the Sudanese Civil War. They worked together in order to travel unimaginable miles to escape unimaginable pain that most cannot even begin to wrap their heads around.
I started thinking about how this proverb, while not comparable to the importance of the meaning to the Lost Boys of Sudan, can serve as an anchor in the work we do in education. I asked myself some questions about my work and thought about the results related to going fast or going far. Some questions I have looming in my mind (I am going to add to this inquiry over time) that I want to ponder include:
- How does aligning our beliefs about what matters most help us match what we believe to our actions?
- What practices/actions give us the biggest take-aways to support students who are struggling to read, write, talk, and create? How do those practices/actions push students to deepen what they know and are able to do?
- Are we living within content (simmering, developing, making meaning across time) OR pushing our way through it too fast?
- How does looking at student work guide us to know what to do next with students?
- How do we know…really know…when students are successful? How do we create criteria for success that matches what we believe about assessment of and for learning?
I’m in an inquiry that has my mind continually thinking. One of the ways I live within my inquiry is to use my notebook as a place to hold my thinking. I started a chart in my notebook that looks something like this:
Do you have questions or ideas that you are wrestling with that you believe will push you and/ or others to go further as long as you work together? If so, please consider sharing. I’d love to hear your ideas!