Night at the Museum

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I went back to school for a while tonight.  All day yesterday and today the third graders were talking about an event they would be holding this evening: their “Night at the Museum“.    They had a trial run for the second graders yesterday afternoon, and I had a few minutes before my 2:00 class, so I took a peek.  Each and every one of them was dressed as a historical figure whom they’d researched.  Each had a big red button in front of them.  Whenever someone pressed the button, they sprang into action and told “their”  life story.  There were astronauts, athletes, presidents, miraculous survivors, overcomers,  authors and founders. I only had time to see a few of them, so I went back this evening to press as many red buttons as I could.  I heard the stories of Abraham Lincoln, Anne Frank, Juliet Low, George Washington, Cal Ripken, Mia Hamm, Betsy Ross, Neil Armstrong, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, Bethany Hamilton, Mary Lou Retton, Tara Lapinski and a host of other famous and/or historic figures.

For some reason, I choke up a lot lately at student events.  It happened when the middle school jazz band came to give an assembly for our younger students, and I saw kids I’ve known since kindergarten starting to look like adults.  It happened at my own Second Grade concert, and then again yesterday and tonight at the Third Grade “Night at the Museum.”  Why does that happen to me?

Let me tell you what I really saw.

I saw 8 year olds who had done research, written speeches, read them fluently, with expression, and a few who even had them memorized.  (And we’re talking pages of information).  But I think what really touched me was not just that they could do all that, but that they looked me in the eye when they did it.  The first time it happened I thought, “Matt is such an outgoing kid.”  But then it happened again.  And again and again.  Somebody taught them to look at the people they were speaking to.  Here they were, face to face with rooms full of people.  Personally, at the age of 57 I am still awkward and uncomfortable in large groups or at social events.  But these 8 year olds were poised, undistracted by any commotion around them, confident, comfortable and not afraid to make eye contact.  Their teachers have given them not just the know how to research, the knowledge of history,  the ability to read, and the tenacity to persevere until they got this huge assignment done, but also…and I think this is huge….the confidence to interact with other people.

Why is this important?  Because we have entered the age where people no longer have to look at each other, or converse or interact.  Many children are growing  up behind keyboards and monitors, entertaining themselves alone with video games, communicating through text messages, emails and Facebook.  Not all, but certainly enough to effect our entire culture.  Cyber school is convenient, but I’m not convinced that it’s a good thing.

And then, I guess what really got me was the smile at the end of their speech….the one that nobody had to teach them to give.  It was a smile of pride in their accomplishment.  I’m proud of them too, and their classroom teachers must be bursting with pride.  They should be.

On my way home I started thinking about the people who spent their days and years teaching me.  Mrs. Boardman, Mrs. MacNish, Mrs. Williams, Mrs. VanTrease, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, Mrs. Bruno, Mr. Volbrecht….you won’t recognize their names, but I will never forget them.  They gave me everything I needed to become who I have been for the last 30 years.  Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Kallatch, Mrs. Godshall….you probably don’t know those names either. Sometimes…most of the time….I forget how important teachers are.  I’m with them every day.  I share their environment.  I…..take them for granted.  They will never be famous.  But it really is true that the legacy they are establishing year after year in their students will carry those children through the rest of their lives.  The kids I talked to tonight are going to be just fine.  I hope someday they realize how blessed they are to go to school where they do, and to have the teachers they have.


8 comments on “Night at the Museum”

  1. Very nice! Our school has the same idea of the students taking on the personalities of famous people in history. And, yes, I agree. Cyber schools are a lot to be desired! They take away from the personal touch of educating our children. Computers do not give an encouraging smile.

  2. Wow Jane I wish I had gone to see it too! How proud everyone involved must be.

  3. A legacy. I’ve heard this a lot lately. Is this our age or a trend in thinking? Makes a lot sense. Resonates. Thnx. Ib

  4. I don’t think it’s our age or a trend, Irm. It’s just a fact. The 3 teachers who produced this event are all in their early 30s. I can look back on what I’ve been able to do in my life because of what my teachers did for me. Their students still have life to look forward to because of what they are doing. It’s already a legacy. I guess you could call it paying it forward.

  5. Teachers can make such a profound difference in children’s lives. Not only cramming pieces of information into their heads, but the life skills that they teach….as you indicted in the confidence and presentation styles. Hooray for caring adults in children’s lives!!

  6. I love when I see students who overcome. I will never forget one of my first accompanists, who came back to me 5 years after I had her as a student and asked me to write a college rec. letter for her. I choked up. I cry at school performances, because I know that for some of these kids, its the safest place, and the most scariest place they may ever be- and they are achieving…

  7. Aww, that’s so sweet! They seem really prepared.

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