First of all, a huge thank you to all the people who have emailed me their questions and thoughts on education for next week’s mailbag blog post (still not in love with that name…mailbag…it feels a bit antiquated and I might have to open it up to the masses for a better title). I’m so excited to take this blog to a new phase where it is more interactive and engaging to my readers. Remember, you can still send your thoughts or questions on education (any aspect) to TMMWmailbag@gmail.com. If you don’t make this mailbag, you could easily make the next one (oh yes, there will definitely be a next one). Speaking of sharing, thanks to the trailblazers who became the first to comment on my blog posts these last two weeks! Keep sharing your voices and insights! Okay, enough with the promotions and thank-you’s…let’s get to the real reason you clicked on this post.
I want to talk about goosebumps.
No, I’m not going to go on a diatribe about the children’s horror novel series by R.L. Stine—though, I could easily write nine pages on the absolute absurdity of books like, “The Horror At Camp JellyJam,” and “I Live In Your Basement” (For those of you who haven’t read “I Live In Your Basement”, the level of distain R.L. Stine displays towards his fan base of young children is staggering! The story is about a young boy named Marco who keeps getting phone calls from another boy claiming to be a monster living in his basement. Then, a bunch of oddball things start to happen to Marco. Seems fine enough, until you get to the end where the big reveal is that the whole story you’ve read is just a monster retelling a dream he had (which, ask anyone to tell you about a dream they had and see how long it takes to become the most boring story you’ve ever heard).
What I want to talk about is that feeling you get when things go so spectacularly well in your class, that your body has a deep chemical reaction that raises every hair on your body. It’s like the hairs on your body turn into the overly-caffeinated audience at a taping of the Price is Right. Pick me, Drew! Pick me! I
I get goosebumps whenever I see the light bulb go off in my students’ heads. Not the, “Oh, I get it” bulb, but
I recently took time to reflect on all the goosebump moments I have had (at least, all the moments I could remember) to see if there was any commonality. When I discovered the commonality, it was so obvious, so unbelievably glaring that I couldn’t believe I had never seen it before. So what did all these goosebump moments have in common?
My own passion and enthusiasm.
I always get excited when students suddenly understand something, or when their brains wrinkle with a deep connection with the material, but it’s only when students have that “aha” moment about something I am really passionate or enthusiastic about that I get unabashedly excited on a deeply visceral level. You might be thinking, “Wow, that sounds unbelievably self-serving.” Well, thanks for your uninvited opinion, person I just made up in my head. But let me explain why that’s not entirely correct. I mean,
I have six units that I cover in my class each year. Right now, I typically experience goosebump moments during two of those units. Why? Because I am so hopelessly passionate about these two units that if you took them away from me, I’d fall into the same gray abyss of sadness that I fell into when I found out that the show House Hunters was all staged (What do you mean, they always buy the empty house? It was real to me, dammit! [
So why haven’t I had these goosebump moments during the other four units? The reason is simple: I haven’t made a deep, personal connection with the material. THIS was my big discovery. My goosebump moments weren’t dependent upon my students, they were dependent upon capital M-E, me. I wasn’t basking in the glow of profound, mega light bulb revelations all year-round because I hadn’t figured out how to connect with all of the material in my curriculum (at least, in a way that had me bursting with excitement to teach it).
So now I have a new goal for 2018 (add it to the pile, I guess). I must find something (or manufacture something, even) within those four units that I can connect with and get passionate about. It will require work (probably lots of work), but unlike R.L. Stine, author of the classic tome, “The Barking Ghost,” I’m not content to simply go through the motions and collect a check. If I’m not excited about the material I teach, my students definitely aren’t excited about it, either; and nobody’s getting goosebumps from a lukewarm lesson.
What are some ways you connect with the material you teach? Are there lessons you struggle to get passionate over? Let me know in the comments below!