Sleeping With the Anemone

 

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I love teaching on a big-picture basis. I like nothing more than seeing the lightbulbs as students master a new concept. I love the challenge of devising new ways to present complicated information. I thrive on the messages from former students that they now understand and enjoy math. I enjoy “adopting” 120 new personalities every year and watching them grow and change throughout the year. Once they have been in my classroom, they will always be one of “my kids,” even after they have kids of their own (yes, I have been teaching that long!).

I love teaching on a big-picture basis, but I can have a tendency to get bogged down in the details of low pay, never-ending meetings and ever-changing legislation. This is never more true than in the spring, as we gear up for the standardized testing season. My eyes and brain blur as I analyze data and compile reports. My energy wans just as the students become ever more excited for spring break and the elusive call of summer vacation. By March, students and teachers can grow cranky with each other, much like a family at the end of a long road trip. Are we there yet?

Sometimes I can forget the big picture.

And, sometimes, a magical moment brings it all into focus again. This weekend was filled with those moments.

I chaperoned an overnight field trip with 200 7th graders to the Georgia Aquarium, billed as the world’s largest.

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The luggage of 200 teenagers!

We arrived at the aquarium Friday afternoon, just as the last of the general public was making their way to the exits. The aquarium atrium, which I had never seen without shoulder to shoulder crowds, stood empty and quiet.

Kinda feel like Night at the Museum! Luckily, all the life was safely behind glass:)
Kinda feel like Night at the Museum! Luckily, all the life was safely behind glass:)

As we were led by our guides on a behind the scenes tour, I watched the students’ faces. Seeing their excitement and curiosity was infectious.

The "wave maker" from the top of one of the tanks
The “wave maker” from the top of one of the tanks
The world's largest tank from above. You can see one of the whale sharks at the front of the picture.
The world’s largest tank from above. You can see one of the whale sharks at the front of the picture.
I love jellyfish, but only from a safe distance!
I love jellyfish, but only from a safe distance!

By 11:00 (waaay past my bedtime1), the girls and female chaperones made our way to the large tank viewing area to bed down for the night.

This was the view from my sleeping bag.
This was the view from my sleeping bag.

I found myself sleeping much like I imagine new parents do – listening for trouble and staying constantly on alert. Every time I do an overnight trip with students, I have much more respect for the huge responsibility carried by parents.

This trip, with its learning and exploration unencumbered by paperwork and testing, reminded me of the big picture. I teach because I love the enthusiasm and inquisitiveness that fuels learning. I teach because I want every child to reach their potential. I teach because I don’t want a lack of knowledge to ever hold someone back from their dreams. I teach to share my passions with the hope that my students will pass it on.

And sleeping with the fishes is pretty cool too:)

I'm used to sleeping with a pit bull, so a whale shark isn't too strange!
I’m used to sleeping with a pit bull, so a whale shark isn’t too strange!
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