Most meaningful moments in school: A student’s perspective

Jumping for joy

Jumping for joy. kilgarronCC BY

“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.

8 thoughts on “Most meaningful moments in school: A student’s perspective

  1. As always, your writing brings me right to where you are, and leaves me with questions to think about. The memories that we attach to emotions are the ones we remember most. Funny how those moments of spontaneous joy were the ones that she held tight to- both the raining candy and singing teachers must have made quite the impression on your 5th grade friend. But teachers- we have so much on our plates already that we are required to do- now add “be spontaneously joyful more often as to stand out in a student’s memory” to the list! (Kind of joking but kind of not!) Sometime the weight of being a teacher and all the expectations that come with it can feel to difficult to bear.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There’s tremendous weight on teachers. Incredibly hard to bear at times. People outside of education – or who don’t live with a teacher – cannot fully feel the ponderous weight of it. I could write a blog series about that… so, during this experience with the student, and again when I wrote about these moments, I felt such a mixture of emotions. I was reminded of the value of play – these teachers’ bit of whimsy made a lasting impression that I’m sure they couldn’t have anticipated. So, too, do students need moments of play. How to let this happen amid the demands, expectations, requirements, standards, assessments, evaluations … that’s got to be an individual thing. Mostly I keep thinking that if teachers don’t enjoy their work, how can students enjoy theirs? Thoughts continue to circle round and round my mind as well. As always, I thank you for your words and powerful insights, Kathleen. They’re so meaningful to me.


  2. As I enter the last 2 1/2 days of school I wonder what my third graders will remember from the year- hoping they take away some good memories! I love the way you helped the girl find her moments and get them down on paper!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much and here’s to a happy finish for you and your students! What strikes me is that they remember things we never would imagine… ask them what they’ll remember most from their year with you! It would be so fun to know.


  3. Think back on your school days and what memories come? I know mine aren’t about academics, but more about enjoyment. Students learn, their knowledge grows and it’s like they always knew that information. I agree, if you aren’t having fun with the students, they are not having fun in class and they just play the game of school.

    Liked by 1 person

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