The things that have been most valuable to me I did not learn in school.
This week I saw a truly amazing thing that I have been reflecting on quite a bit. Our eighth grade teams organized a poetry slam. This poetry slam took place outside of school hours at the Rock House coffee shop in Wilmette. On the surface, this might sound pretty mundane and uneventful. However, if you were to have walked into the Rock House last Tuesday, you would have seen a truly special event.
What I saw was a packed house of 13- and 14-year-olds and a steady rotation of kids taking the stage to read their original poems. Now the poems were amazing and I am taken aback by our kids’ depth and ability, but what was really amazing was the environment this event produced. Our students were supportive of one another and encouraged one another to take the stage and share their work. I have known these students for four years, and it was amazing to see some of our most introverted students take the stage and read their poems aloud and proud. When students took the stage, their peers cheered for them and as they read their poems, the house erupted with the sounds of snapping fingers. The support that these eighth graders showed one another was tremendous and touching.
While this experience was wonderful, it isn’t unique among the learning opportunities our kids have outside of the classroom, nor is it atypical for our teachers to encourage, support, and plan these types of experiences. Our teachers know that one does not need to be in a classroom to learn valuable lessons. I am so impressed by the way our teachers spend time outside of school helping students with service projects, performances, and athletic and club opportunities. I am so proud of our kids and of our teachers for seeing the value of these out-of-school lessons. This is another great example of how our schools provide truly unique learning experiences for our students.