As I sit here on a Sunday morning, consumed with thoughts of lesson planning and wondering, perhaps wrongly, why we don't teach the whole dollar first and not the penny, which is 1/100 of a dollar and that just doesn't make sense to a first grader necessarily, I am distracted by the words of one of my old students ringing in my head.
He came to camp this summer after being on vacation and he was surprised and happy to see me standing in front of the amphitheater in the woods. He said, "You know me, right?" I said, "Of course I know you. I've missed you. How are you?" and we shared a hug. As the others in his troop filed in he asked them, "Do you know her?" pointing up to me. They nodded and shook their heads unsure of how well they actually did know me. Then he would ask me, "Do you know her?", "Do you know him?" And I replied, "Yes I know them, from camp. But not like I know you." As we ran through our activities, he made sure to ask the question over and over. "Do you know her?" Finally at the end, as we gathered our materials, he ran up to me, "You know me best! Right? You know me best!" I laughed and hugged him again. "Yes, I know you best." I had been his teacher for nine months. I had seen him each morning at 7:50 am. I saw his mother and his sister bring him down the hall to class. I spent eight wonderful hours a day, learning, laughing, and watching and talking with this little boy. I did know him best. I had seen him sad and happy, confused and awed by learning, learning about others, and about the world. He announced to the rest of his troop as they marched off, "She knows me best!" His voice rang with the pride and pleasure of someone who is loved. That is true.
Perhaps that is all we need to be as teachers, not the lesson planning gurus but the people who know them best, at least for these brief, long days in first grade and elementary school, where they are trying to figure out the world and need someone to ground them in the familiar. What they know best is being loved. My own children are the same - they know I know them best, love them best, but they need to go out in the world feeling that there are others who know them, if not love them, best. It is part of my responsibility, my job to find those people who can care about them enough to get to know them best.
I will go back to lesson planning, I can't imagine getting through a day without a map for these little boys on which to guide their steps. But the new common core would have us forget that they are children who, before they can know anything, have to believe they have someone who can 'know me best'. I heard a teacher once say excitedly, "The common core is wonderful. The students are entering the classroom asking, Mrs. B., What is our objective today?" Sorry, I just don't get that. I want students who are excited about learning, but not concerned about the objective. Leave that up to the teacher. I want them to say, What are we going to read today? What are we going to do today? What are we going to write and see and explore today to learn and find something new? And it's not that different for older students. Really, it's no different for us as adults either. We all want someone who can know us and try to understand us, in our families, our friendships, and our work environments. Someone we can know knows me best.