My son got married in Hawaii last month and it was an amazing experience. There is nothing quite like being on a tropical island for an important event. Fortunately, everything went as planned and it was a memorable occasion. We held an additional reception in our backyard this past weekend. I was hoping that we could replicate some of the beauty and joy for the folks who could not travel to Hawaii for the actual wedding. We felt like our yard was ready to provide another lovely setting.
It ended up being another joyful experience and I learned that the setting is less important than the feeling of celebrating something joyful with people you love. The tiki torches in our yard seemed to blaze with just as much excitement as the torches did on Wailea Beach in Maui. The event was the focus, not the setting.
I think there are some educators who concentrate on the setting, not the event of education. Each year I supervise student teachers in at-risk schools. I tire of teachers telling me how ‘difficult’ it is to function effectively in their school setting and how impossible it is to make a difference in the lives of their students. I don’t buy it. I believe that at-risk children deserve to be in a nurturing environment and feel joy in their class group. I understand the dilemma because I have been teaching and working in at-risk classrooms for over 35 years. Is it difficult? Yes. But the focus should be on how to help the children, not on the less-than-ideal setting. There are some teachers in challenging schools who need to stop blaming the lack of resources, lack of parent support, and the lack of self-discipline in their students. If a classroom is not a nurturing and effective environment, it is the teacher’s fault, not the situation. My son’s wedding was the event and carried the feelings of the day. The environment took second place. Some of the most joyous classrooms I’ve been in have been in challenging environments. Most classroom research indicates that the number one factor in a successful classroom (and in children learning to read, etc.) is the attitude and preparation of the teacher. Teachers can create a strong learning path for their students, even if there is a lack of resources and support. The focus should be on the event of learning, not on whether there is unlimited resources.
Would I have spent less time on my yard knowing the event would carry the day? Probably not, because we all want a wonderful environment. But, I would have made sure the event was the focus, not my flowers. A teacher should never stop trying to improve the environment of the school and classroom. The focus, however, should be on tracking each child’s progress and creating learning experiences for individual students.