Holly Valentine | February 2021
The Importance of Wonder
Frustrating days. We all have them. The days where we wonder if what we work so hard at doing is worth it or making a difference. Acknowledge it, but don’t give into it. We work so hard to inspire our kids, but sometimes we need to remember to inspire ourselves too.
So how do we do that? Let’s face it – it kind of sounds like a dream to just step away and do things we enjoy. How can we when there are deadlines looming, assessments to score, dinner to be made and laundry to be folded? Though it may sound overwhelming to put that all off (despite how much we want to), it’s not putting it off. It’s not procrastinating. It’s getting the energy back that keeps you going every single day.
Think back to the moments in your classroom when it all just worked. The times you wished an administrator had walked in to do that unannounced observation. The times your kids were brilliant, and no one but you was around to see it.
Why did it work?
I’m willing to bet it’s because you went off the lesson plan. You found a teachable moment and went with it. Or better yet, your students really drove the class. You didn’t know where it was going and you let yourself be okay with that. Those magical sessions? Those are when you allowed true genuine wonder and inspiration to come in. I know that was always the case for me and my classroom. Every time it happened, I reminded myself I needed to let it happen more often. It was reminding me why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place.
So it’s not procrastinating chores, but it’s refocusing, breathing and allowing yourself to find inspiration and wonder in places you might not expect it. Allow yourself to go ‘off your daily lesson plan’. How do you do that? Collect a list of go-to places that will help you escape and be amazed. Finding that sense of awe yourself will find you being anxious to share it with your students.
I’m not talking about spending a half hour scrolling through TikTok or Instagram. Too often, your feeds are geared towards your area of teaching and will snap you right back into work. That’s not the type of inspiration you need. Neither are news websites or sites devoted to your favorite hobbies.
I am talking about sites of pure wonder. The items that make you say “Wow, that’s cool!” Start off with My Modern Met. Created to form a city of creativity, the site’s mission is “to promote a positive culture by spotlighting the best sides of humanity—from the lighthearted and fun to the thought-provoking and enlightening”. Isn’t that something we all need right now? This is one of my first go-to sites when I need a break or some inspiration. Prepare to be amazed. Better yet, sign up for their weekly newsletter so you remember to be inspired. When it arrives each week, give yourself the gift of inspiration and be ready to be awed.
Next, check out Colossal, another site that was designed to “serve as an online gallery of visually spectacular artwork, while seeking to educate and inform rather than criticize or interpret”. You will escape into this site and be amazed. Discover contemporary artists of all genres and be reminded of some of the greats. They also have a newsletter to join, to help you remember to wonder.
Finding your why
It’s not just our students that wonder some basic everyday “whys” of the world. Head on over to Wonderopolis. If you don’t know this site, get to know it for your students too. It’s filled with everyday questions we all wonder the answers to, and fueled by questions viewers want answered. While the site is geared towards students, there is no doubt some of your own wonders will be answered and you will likely tell your students about it pretty quickly. I used to embed “Wonder Wednesday” into my classroom, where an hour each Wednesday would be devoted to this site. It was a break we all liked forward to.
Earlier we talked about those lessons that just worked. I would also be willing to bit it was a lesson that you changed from previous years or it was brand new. Why did it work? Because you were as excited as your students. You were doing something you’ve done a million times in a new way. You felt it. Your students felt it. So challenge yourself to do that again. Find a new lesson that will address the topics you know and teach every year but will have you doing it in a new way. It’s a way that puts your students front and center, learning creatively. Sure it’s going to force you out of your comfort zone a bit…and that’s awesome! Your energy for the unknown will spill over into your students. Go off the lesson plan. Just watch what will happen.
Finding ways to allow yourself to wonder and to be the student while learning about and reading new things will energize your classroom. Trust me.
Allow yourself to be inspired. Find your inner creative. Be filled with wonder.