Saturday, April 16, 2016

Nap Every Day: A Metaphor for Education

This past Wednesday night I was given the honour to present as one of the speakers for edvent 2016 where each speaker was asked to chose one line from Robert Fulghum's  poem Everything I Learned in Kindergarten and relate it to education.  After my first choice was already chosen by some else, the line I spoke to was "Take a Nap Every Afternoon".  

For those of you who were not able to attend, here is more or less what I said, with the images that I shared as I went.

According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary a nap is defined as a sleep in the middle of the afternoon. As a grade one, two, and three teacher I think if I tried to have a nap in the middle of the afternoon, while my students were still in class, more than likely I'd no longer have a job. Having said that though, there is a lot we can learn about from a daily nap, even if a metaphoric one.  
I'd like to start with a story, but I must admit there are many truths to my story. This year I work at SAIL, the Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning. It is a blended home school program and falls under distributed learning. My students are most likely no different than yours. They are keen, curious, eager learners. They specifically have chosen to come to SAIL and travel from all over to attend. But for some of my students there is a very specific reason why they left their previous schools. It let them down. When they entered school they thought it was a place to explore their curiosities, but instead they quickly learned it was a place to please their teachers.  Some of my students were disillusioned with the notion of school and felt their voices had little place in THEIR learning.

So again what does this story have to do with a daily nap? What can we learn from that daily nap?

A nap forces us to slow down. As educators we never have enough time. We are always in a rush - We need to cover curriculum, attend required meetings, do our supervisions, learn new things, connect with our colleagues and of course teach our students. And sometimes in the rush I think we  fail to truly get to know our students. I know I certainly can be guilty of that. We need naps to slow down so we can watch and listen more. Not watch and listen to see and hear but to understand our students better.

A nap allows us to pause and reflect. It helps us learn more about our students interests, passions and learning styles.  We learn what makes them happy and what scares them greatly.

A nap allows us to absorb all of this, and worry less about who we expect our students to be and celebrate more of who they truly are.

Each day a metaphorical nap gives us the strength and the courage to reboot and re examine our roll as an educator. We no longer have to  expect our students to do it our way, and we can be open to them learning ways that works best for them. It gives us the opportunity to put our learners back in the centre of their learning where they belong. It can help remind us to switch from saying, “this is how I’d like you to do it”  to more of  “that sounds like a great idea, I can’t wait to see how it turns out”. Regular naps give us the opportunity to make a change to better meet our students needs. Not our needs, our students needs.

And, there are perks to those naps. The process of shutting down, even for just a few minutes allow us to  refresh and be more creative. We are less frazzled and more open to new and different ideas. We can better handle adversity, and develop better resilience and our judgment gets stronger too.  

The productivity both ours and our students, goes up when we put the learning back in their hands. When we do this we support meaningful and magical opportunities for learning for our students.

We need to slow down to avoid burn out.

But more than anything, as an educator, as a mother, as a father, as a partner, as a friend, a daily nap allows us to be good to ourselves. If we aren’t good to ourselves who will be?

So slow down, strive to understand, rest your worries, and have a nap. Our students are counting on us.

Thank you.

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