We had a faculty meeting at one of my schools today. One of the items on the agenda was the announcement that we would again be hosting a group of 25-30 pre-service teachers from a local university. The teachers are always happy to have the chance to help undergrads get a feel for actual classroom life.
On my drive home I thought about the kids who I had in my student teaching experiences and how much I learned from them. Many of their faces are still crystal clear in my mind, although most of them are now parents themselves, and I probably wouldn't recognize them (though I like to think I might).
There were awesome kids in those classes with personality galore. Some were hilarious and some so quirky that I still tell stories about the funny things they said. The thing that stands out to me is that while I was supposed to be there to teach them, I was the one who learned the most. Every day I learned something about innocence as a child would reveal a hope, dream or musing. I learned about perseverance from kids who had to fight to learn a new skill...or from those who seemed to try and fail over and over and over. Yet they continued to try.
The kids who taught me the most were the ones who made me not only question myself, but the whole world we live in. As a college student it was impossible for me to believe that those beautiful children could possibly have anything other than puppies, glitter and kindness when they went home. Yet that was so far from the truth. I learned that their paths were dotted with tragedies, struggles, missteps, and often just terrible things. Sometimes they wanted attention and to somehow rise to the level of favorite. Sometimes they couldn't have cared less and were simply hopeless.
I felt sure that I could make them see hope; help them see a bright future. My heart was crushed when there were kids who never really warmed up. I can still picture them. Every once in awhile I'll Google a name to see if I can find what they're doing...sometimes I'll wish I hadn't. Sometimes I'm happily overjoyed to see great things for them.
One thing has never changed. I still learn more from the kids than I could ever hope to teach them. I love to learn...maybe that's why I've been hanging out with kids for so long now. If there are kids in your life, flip that script. Start learning from them. Their experience is the best teacher.