Throughout the chapter on Immersion, Dave talks about the importance of being 100% present in our classrooms. He describes how we, as adults, can tell when we are dealing with someone who is not focused on us; our students are the same way. When I am not completely present in what is happening in my classroom, I am sending the message that something else in my world is more important. As I continued to read about many of the experiences he creates for his students, his picture of total immersion came right out of the book and smacked me in the head.
What an incredible challenge! I am so, so guilty of not immersing myself in my classroom. Here's a perfect example of how completely guilty I am of this charge:
Two years ago, I was teaching preschool. In my two sections of preschoolers, I had four students on IEPs. Of those four, three of them needed one-on-one assistants to be successful. This was my first year trying to balance teaching my students and managing extra adults in my room. Around February of that year, the school district I taught in made a decision that I felt wasn't in the best interest of my students. This decision involved the special education program and would result in my four kiddos needing to relocate for preschool the next year. The whole thing was not handled well on my part, the district's part, or our local AEA's part. Since many of the people who were instrumental in this decision spent a good chunk of time in my classroom, I was incredibly distracted. I was constantly wondering if I was doing something wrong and what, if anything, was being said behind my back. Not to mention the nagging worry I felt in being responsible for keeping the doors of my preschool open. If I had lost the support of the district or the trust of the community, it could very well have been the end of my preschool. As a result of this constant worry, I could have easily won an award for Most Distracted Teacher. I shudder to think of all the time I wasted in my students' lives because of my lack of immersion.
This, of course, is just one example; there have been many, many more in my short teaching career. That's just how life is though - it's hard. What I have to remember when I walk through the doors of my classroom is that my students need and deserve to have all of me. They deserve to have a teacher who is excited about each lesson and who is willing to do anything to make sure they learn what they need to learn.
Again, I say, what an incredible challenge! Here's the thing about total immersion though: if you are completely immersed in something, it doesn't take long to forget about everything else. It's not an easy thing to leave all of my problems at the door, especially knowing that I am a worrier/questioner. If I succeed in doing so, though, the moments in my classroom become so much more effective and powerful. It's like taking a vacation. People can have all kinds of worries, but if you push them to do something that will encompass their entire being (like going to an amusement park or a historical monument or to complete a craft or project) they will forget those worries and inevitably have a good time. I need to think about my classroom this way; I need to immerse myself into each lesson and become present in each moment.