With only 10 days of school left for this year I am feeling like a bonboniere. The end of a school year is always bitter sweet. I am desperately looking forward to lying in bed until well after the school bell would have rung to start the day. I am looking forward to working around the house, baking, baking and more baking and most of all, spending time with my girls. The bitter part of the holidays comes from me missing my classroom, my office and my students so much it almost hurts. Yes.... I cry on the last day of school as much as the teenage girls do.
I feel truly blessed that I have had the opportunity to come to know so many gorgeous souls over the course of this year. Next year there will be time to continue getting to know these kids, plus a whole swag on new students. Sitting back to reflect on this year I am astounded by how different each of my students really are and how the experiences of this year have helped to shaped and change them. However, it's important to remember that it's not just this year of schooling that has made them. When planning for next year I won't just be taking into account what happened in the last 4 terms of school.
For the last 6 weeks in English we've been talking about perspective and how an author will put certain things into a story that tell us about his or her experiences. They've been able to put themselves into the shoes of others and practice a little empathy. It's been great for them to talk about themselves, reflect on their lives and then realise how that influences the choices they make today. It would be even better if they could then think about how future actions will impact on them before they happen, but I expect as 13 years olds they aren't quite ready for that!
With such a variety of kids across the two campuses I look after it is interesting to think about how their home experiences affect their personality. Some come from very challenging environments, others very supportive, many in between. The relationship between nature and nurture is such a complicated and fascinating dynamic in a classroom as there is so little of it we can actually control as teachers. Many teachers still try and control classrooms rather than letting the experiences happen and using them to learn from.
The nature vs nurture interplay is clearly evident in pregnancy and early childhood. I adored all three of my pregnancies and would gladly sign up again, yet I can see how nature has affected how each child was nurtured and how nurturing affected their nature. Having that life growing inside you makes you so acutely aware of how the things you do influence the growth and development of another. As babies develop in utero any stresses experienced by the mum can impact on their neurological development (Example A - hubby), a difficult birth can impact negatively as well (Example B- myself and daughter number 2). Pre-eclampsia and premmie babies are a good example of this risk factor, though positive outcomes are also possible. Through my work in early childhood I've seen so many infants and toddlers affected by the stresses their parents are experiencing - never for their benefit. Once the event has happened, there's no going back. If the event repeats, it is even harder to repair. Nature and nurture are so intrinsically linked that you can't separate them.
I can't control the early childhood experiences my students bring with them when they walk through my classroom door. Often I won't have any clue about them from in utero or their birth story. Most often I don't even know if they've had breakfast that morning! I can't control or change what has happened before, but I can impact on how they experience life while in those four walls. I am able to control how I plan and teach. So much of their nature is determined before I even meet them, but perhaps if I can nurture them based on who they are when they come to me, and not some preconceived notion I have about what a student should look and act like, then that nurturing might impact on their nature for the better.