“So,” I ask the student, “what are some of your favorite memories from all your time in elementary school?”
She’s working on her fifth grade graduation speech. Making this farewell address to the school is part of her official role as Student Council President. She’s struggling with framing her thoughts, which is why I’m here.
She looks off in the distance, past the walls of the room where we’re sitting, scrolling back over the chapters of her young life. I wonder what she’s remembering. Maybe a time she accomplished something she thought she couldn’t? Winning a class competition? A book that a teacher read aloud? A moment in a lesson when she learned something powerful that will remain with her for the rest of her life? I hope that’s it because I want to know it. And tap into it.
Finally she smiles. “There was this one time my first grade teacher just started tossing candy around the room.”
I blink. “Um, okay . . . why did she do that?”
The student shrugs, still smiling. “I don’t know. I don’t think there was a reason. I just remember she had a lot of candy and she started tossing it around for us and the other classes.”
Six years of elementary school and this is her favorite memory.
Having nothing to do with learning, achieving, growing, or rationale . . . but everything to do with spontaneous joy.
“All right then,” I say as I jot notes. “You can put this in your speech. Maybe call it the time you remember it ‘raining candy’ and explain what your teacher did.”
“That’s good,” she nods.
“Can you think of any other special or meaningful moments from all your time here?”
I wait as she scrunches her face a bit, thinking hard. Then another big grin:
“Yeah, the time the fourth grade teachers got together and sang to our classes.”
They sang? I never knew they did this. I’m curious. “Why did the teachers sing to you?”
“Just for fun, I think.”
Her eyes are so bright.
We finish fleshing out the draft of her speech. She is pleased. As she heads back to her classroom, I walk the hallways, replaying the conversation, mulling the moments that hold significance for such an accomplished student.
Just simple, unscripted, uninhibited moments when teachers were having fun.
How few and far between are they?
But how priceless to students, in the long educational scheme of things.
I walk on, carrying both the lightness and the weight of it.