This post was inspired by two recent events: hearing an inspirational keynote address by Michael Wesch (@mwesch) yesterday and attending my son’s soccer game today at Hjorth Road Park in Surrey – a place I like to call the “Field of Dreams.” Let me tie the two events together.
Michael Wesch’s address at the 2012 SPVPA Convention at Harrison Hot Springs yesterday spoke about the importance of reaching learners by creating a sense of wonder and awe – the same wonder and awe experienced by those in Wellington, New Zealand when it began to snow one day.
How does my son’s soccer game relate to this and why do I call Hjorth Road Park the “Field of Dreams?” Back in the Spring of 2009, I was the Vice-Principal at Holly Elementary School in Surrey. Holly is a Level-1 inner city school. Translation – the need there is great, but so are the rewards for those who work and learn there. It was (and is) a common practise for the school to sponsor children by registering them for organized sport. We did this through Canadian Tire’s great program called JumpStart. There were so many children who would benefit from such experiences that one day, a wonderful and dedicated educator and friend, Corrie Shaw, and I decided to register a whole team for Spring soccer – 18 boys in all, from every corner of the globe. Not one knew a thing about participating in organized sport, but they loved soccer and most certainly deserved the opportunity.
Before our very first game, we met at the school and walked the 10 minutes to the park together. Some of the boys walked ahead of us and as we reached the park, we heard a sudden clamour and several boys gasp, “WOW!”
They had crested the hill and what lay before them was a brand new, beautiful turf field.
“Yes,” we replied.
He pointed at the rough, rocky area next to the field and said, “In Iraq, we play on that.”
His response made me understand that we must never assume when it comes to a child’s experiences, and that we must always take advantage of opportunities that create wonder and awe in our students.
Even before the first kick, this had become their “Field of Dreams.” The team went on to a 7-1 record and many of the team parents went on to register their sons for soccer the next season.
I’ve taught in many classrooms and schools. It is difficult to regularly provide activities that create a sense of wonder and awe for students. At times, this seems impossible. But when it does happen – when you can get kids to stop and say “WOW” – it’s a magical reminder of why we do what we do.
Besides this soccer story, these WOW moments are the moments I remember the most:
- Sharing with a class that a their contribution to the Make-a-Wish Foundation helped a sick child fulfill her dream of going to Disneyland before dying.
- Feeding the homeless in one of the toughest parts of Surrey.
- Delivering a Christmas hamper to a needy family.
- Witnessing a spectacular view at the top of a mountain after a long hike.
- Discovering a child’s hidden talent when given the chance to perform in a Talent Show.
- The sense of satisfaction and responsibility a student experiences when they have the opportunity to decide what and how they will learn.
These moments – and the sense of wonder and awe associated with them – are what students remember and learn from the most. Creating such opportunities are a great challenge, but our kids are worth it!