Another day of teaching. “Another day wasted.”
Several years ago, I posted a quick story about Charles Francis Adams. With many of you trying to keep your heads above water, finishing state assessments, planning end of the year activities, perhaps now is a good time for a gentle reminder of sorts.
It’s a story many of you already know. I was reminded of the story while browsing through an old teaching strategy article from the Organization of American Historians.
Charles Francis Adams, grandson of John Adams and son of John Quincy Adams, served as a Massachusetts state senator, a US Congressman and ambassador to Great Britain under Abraham Lincoln. He was also very conscientious about keeping a daily journal and encouraged his own children to do the same.
Henry Brooks, fourth of seven Adams children, followed his advice and began journaling at a young age. A particular entry written when Brooks was eight has continued to catch our attention. Following a day spent with his father, he wrote
Went fishing with my father today, the most glorious day of my life.
The day was so glorious, in fact, that Brooks continued to talk and write about that particular day for the next thirty years. It was then that Brooks thought to compare journal entries with his father.
For that day’s entry, Charles had written:
Went fishing with my son, a day wasted.
Now it’s possible that Charles was upset that they came home empty-handed, having caught no fish. But even so, he seems to have forgotten that the process is sometimes more important than the product. That the time spent with kids is usually more important than what we do with them.
It’s easy to forget the powerful impact we can have with our students just with the time we spend with them. When students I know talk about their favorite teachers, about who made a difference for them, it seems like I hear the word care a lot.
The academics are important. The lesson and units designs are important. Alignment to standards, sure. Well crafted bulletin boards and materials, yeah.
But kids know. Empathy. Love of learning. Kindness. Sharing of time and talents. Thoughtful. Handshakes at the door every day. Emotional and physical pats on the back. They know.
So a gentle reminder during this end of the year season. . . focus on the kid, not just her test scores.