Enthusiasm Bubbling

Enthusiasm Bubbling

Is there really anything better than seeing someone just bubbling over with enthusiasm?

Last week, I added to my nightly request for my kids (and whoever else might be with us–adults included) to tell me their “two good things of the day”.  Perhaps it was the quiet rainfall that made me a bit more reflective, maybe it was the annual wind-down parents with school-age children pass through in late May and early June.  Whatever the inspiration, I ended up delighted that I’d thought to ask them:
What was your favorite thing this year in school?

Not surprisingly, the quickest to answer was the fourth grader.  I wondered what she would choose, as her year has been pretty full.  There were lots of firsts in fourth grade (saxophone, winter sports); this is the year of starting to read “real books” on her own (Harry Potter).  Her teacher’s creativity shone, and has cranked into high gear in these last months.  Their class tested science theories with an egg drop.  For every twenty minutes they’ve logged in reading in the past month or so, they receive 12 inches of duct tape for “Tape Your Teacher to the Wall”.  This will actually happen at the same they are making a “edible map of Vermont”–out of candy with a base of whipped cream on cardboard.

Those are exciting, no doubt, and we are hearing (a lot!) about all of these fun things. But she had another project that had captured her imagination even more. “It’s the Abenaki village, Mom.  I LOVED that!”  This one has been evolving for a few months, starting one wet morning with her brothers and her mother helping her look for natural materials that “could be used to make a house”.  She loved the soft, white pine branches, and we clipped quite a few–so many, in fact, that one of her brother’s friends pulled him aside on the bus and queried, “Why is your sister taking a Christmas tree to school in April?”  This week, parents have been invited in to see the entire village, and I’m sure we’ll recognize the birch bark she carefully stitched together one weekend.  (It was no small feat to get that thing back, in one piece, with two overly exuberant dogs riding along.)  

The high schooler initially couldn’t think of anything, which is a more frequent recent occurrence.
Although I had previously been unaware of this fact, there is apparently a direct relationship between turning 15 or 16–and suddenly being unable to answer parental questions with much more than an unintelligible grunt.  This is particularly true in the “early morning hours” (anything before 11 AM or even noon, in my experience), although, happily, the condition does reverse itself some towards the end of the day.

With some prodding, he remembered a social studies game from late winter.  Many evenings, his two good things of the day came from this Risk-like game from World War II.  He made alliances with various other countries (who didn’t necessarily come together in actual history); he distributed his military might; he employed some political tricks; he took over (many) “weaker nations”.  From his description of the game, he dominated the world and ruled at his whim.  I found myself a bit concerned, actually, at his natural grasp of the situations… which reminds me that he’s the one that always (always!) wins at all the board games.  Where might these skills take him, I wonder?

Our remaining child finishes his two short years in the middle school, time which flies by for our town’s seventh and eighth graders.  They loop with the same “core” teachers for English, math, science and social studies for all four semesters.  The relationships (and probably the antagonisms) built between the students and their instructors become very strong in many cases.  Our eighth-grader has found a natural ally and an extraordinarily caring–and capable–person in his social studies teacher.  It came as no surprise to us when he immediately declared his favorite as social studies.  

In his case, it was not one specific activity that they had done–although there was much to choose from in their wide-ranging topics of revolutionary times, slavery, the Holocaust, political systems, geography, and current events.  No, how our son summed it all up was simple: “I just liked it.”  

We’ve liked it, too.  We’ve watched this teacher consistently find something positive to genuinely praise with each and every one of his students.  He gives the needed constructive criticism, and the second chance to do the rewrite. He guides, supports and cheers, his joy as real as his students.

Because really, is there anything better than watching someone bubbling over with enthusiasm?

Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools–at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels.  She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at jill@globalcow.com.

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