I love my lambs—all of them.
Last spring, as I stood next to a predictably obnoxious student, I was almost overwhelmed by a desire to rip his face off. I curbed the impulse (lucky for me and for the student) and contemplated it. Why the feeling? Why hadn’t I had similarly intense negative feelings before? Why that student and not any one of a dozen other students who were also predictably obnoxious?
The experience was revolting and revelatory; revolting because I could NOT imagine trying to teach while harboring feelings such as the one I’d had and revelatory because I realized that I do not typically have to battle those feelings because God has given me love. In that moment, I recognized that I love my students AND that the love I have for my students is a gift from God. Realizing that love is such a key ingredient to teaching—teaching teens would be hell without it—and that it is a gift from God—rather than a personal characteristic that I own and control—was a very, VERY humbling experience for me. I don’t love those kids because I am good; I love those kids because God is good. He has given me an intense love for them and the responsibility to use that love to change their lives and teach them science. I knew then that I must do everything possible to keep the love gift God has given me; with it, my job is joy; without it, my job would be purgatory.
So far, so good! I still love my students and my job, which is great because I have spent a LOT of time with both recently.
Science Fair came and is now successfully gone. The students entered the gym (where their science fair boards were set up and where the science fair judges awaited them) on figurative pins and needles. “Is it too late to back out?” “I think I am going to die!” “Do we have to do this?” [Yes. Not today. Yes.]
Not unlike a ewe (or a mother hen if we switch analogies), I watched my “little lambs” as they stood nervously in front of their boards. There is something about the 8th grade heart that I find very compelling. Eighth grade hearts are growing up but they are not yet covered in the protective shell that adults develop; one can still glimpse their vulnerability. I witnessed students alternating between fear, excitement, hope, pride, nervousness, and confidence. As a vicarious participant in their experience, I felt the same emotions.
I gave them a little yellow card with presentation tips on it; things like “Show the judge your face cheeks, not your butt cheeks” and “Tell the judge why the project interests you”. Many of the students cupped the card in their hands and covertly glanced at it during their presentation. This too, touched my heart. I badgered them into the experience and they trusted the tool I’d given them to help them out of it.
And, in the end, they got out. No one died and most of them had a good time. On a post science fair survey, 58% agreed with the statement “I am glad I did science fair”; only 13% disagreed with the statement. Seventy-six percent agreed with the statement “Presenting my project to the judges was a good experience”.
Comments on the survey included:
- “I was nervous but it [science fair] was a fun thing to do.
- “Science fair was spectacular because it was fun to show people what really interests me.
- “Everyone should do science fair because when you grow up you will be doing a lot like that at work.”
- “Pee before science fair.”
- “Science fair was great because I did it by myself.”
- “I was nervous for the first judge but I’m glad I did it because it made me less nervous to talk in front of people.
- “I had a lot to say.”
- “Science is fun.” (from the student who did the study on hot tubs and blood pressure)
- “Science fair was chill because at first I was nervous but then I felt confident.”
Though the science fair was almost half of their third term grade, many students did science fair only because I told them the next day’s field trip was an option ONLY for those who participated in science fair; non-participants would NOT be welcome. Failing science did not bother them. Being left behind at school while their peers rode the train to SLC and back did bother them. Whatever works!!!
The day after science fair I took two teacher’s aide, eleven parents, and 92 eighth graders to the Utah Museum of Natural History. Thinking that riding on public transportation would be an educational experience at least as valuable (perhaps more) than what they would see in the museum, I decided to take the train …and the light rail…..and a shuttle. Imagining all the things that could go wrong kept me on edge for weeks. Ninety-two thirteen and fourteen year olds….walk 1.5 mile to the train station….catch the 9:07 a.m. FrontRunner (train)……get off at North Temple and catch the TRAX (light rail) green line…..ride the green line to the Courthouse and switch to the TRAX red line……ride to the Medical Center and board a shuttle to the museum. What could possibly go wrong?
Thankfully, I will never know what could go wrong because nothing did. God is good.
Friday night Ogden Prep received an award at the Fly Fishing Film Festival for the work we have done on the Ogden River. Standing in the wings on the stage of the Peery Egyptian Theater I felt a little like my students felt as they anticipated interacting with the science fair judges. My heart rate was 10-15 beats per minute faster than usual.
My heart raced Friday evening. It sunk Saturday morning. Earlier in the week, when I read the letter asking us to show up Friday, March 7th to receive an award, I also read an announcement for a river clean up, sponsored by the city, on Saturday, March 8th. Thinking it would be good form for us to show up at a river clean-up, after having been given an award for cleaning up the river, I sent an email in ALL Ogden Prep parents, faculty, and staff (K-12) inviting them to participate in the city clean up on Saturday.
There was no one from the city on the river Saturday morning. What I read was March 8th but what was printed on the announcement was May 8th. WHOOPS! No one from the city was there but 22 OPA people were. Love those OPA lambs!!