A grove of trees. Summer. Full moon, so lots of soft light. Middle of the night. No wind.
The trees are my students. I’m the Big Tree. All the trees in my grove have names. Mine is Big Tree. They want me me to notice them. All youths do. I notice them in my language class.
I do notice them. I am very aware of each and every one of them. How much they want to be recognized. And I do things, create strategies aimed at making them know how important they are in my class. I know that they will learn more if I do that. They will not learn more because they are smarter, but because they are happier.
One of the things I do is give each tree a job. Then they are not just a tree, like all the others. They are unique.
They are unique because of the color of their bark, of their leaves. All the trees are the same, but very different. They are stars – tree stars that glitter. Each one glitters if you look closely enough and if you don’t give too many tests.
I will focus in this grove, this classroom, on how much they are different, how special and unique each one is. I will devote my professional life to developing strategies that make students/trees feel more important, and through their uniqueness they will become more and more, every day, part of the grove of trees, part of something, part of the whole.
In this grove, at night, in the slowness of the quiet and happy summer night, they are able to be acknowledged not just by me but by the other trees. They are part of the whole, but unique. That is how I want my classroom set up this summer’s night, and it’s not a dream. I’m doing it.
My job in a storytelling classroom is to bring to the awareness of each student the knowledge that they are like young trees in a grove of trees, each one so special, each one with her own job, each one with her own sense of value and importance, each one capable of glittering in her own way during a story, depending on the story, on the night.
I must find strategies that make this happen in my classroom. Otherwise, I am just a hack.
Each story, each night, different. This night maybe it will be her character that gets into the story for that particular night and won’t that be fun, to be noticed by all the others. That will be fun. I like this class.
The big tree has kept the summer grove in the moonlight safe for her to learn in, to grow in safety in. This is good because being a teenager in a school where in her other classes she doesn’t matter is like a night of its own. A teenage night lasting years, as she hides and hides again, waiting to be acknowledged for something more than her test scores.
–Oui, dis-je au petit prince, qu’il s’agisse de la maison, des étoiles ou du désert, ce qui fait leur beauté est invisible!/Yes, I said to the little prince, whether it’s about a house, stars or a desert, what makes their beauty is invisible. (Saint-Ex.)
Let’s add trees to that sentence. What makes trees beautiful is invisible.
She likes my class because she understands it. She wants to know what happens. I like creating the space for her in the grove, in the classroom, because that is what the bigger trees do, they don’t crowd out but guarantee the safety of the younger ones.
The bigger trees won’t let any one or a few younger trees take all the attention from the other younger ones. It is as nature intended. Everyone in the classroom gets a chance. The stories reflect the balance and harmony.
She learns in this class that she is part of a whole, an important part, because my job as the biggest tree in the grove, yet so small in the universes, is to protect her first and teach her the language of the trees second. So I look at her with approval during the story to convey to her that she is important. Smiles from older trees to younger trees convey to them that they are important. Lots of smiles. And I speak the language of the trees slowly enough so that she can understand. She knows that nothing is more important in the grove when the language of the trees can be heard on those summer moonlit nights than listening. Nothing is more important than hearing the language as it occurs in nature – slowly, in a rustling way, not through forced sounds or forced stories or worksheets or any of that stuff, all that stuff created by the myth of the super teacher.
We listen to each other. When one tree lights up in happiness and wants to share that light, the big tree notices, not so fixed on the story that he can’t see the trees for the forest. So nice to be noticed by the bigger tree, the younger trees think. So nice to be in a quiet class where interesting things happen. So nice to not be graded. So nice to be loved in this class for who I am and not for how many questions I can get right.
I like this grove, the younger trees conclude. I will stay here, they say to themselves. I like the stillness, where I feel the language of the forest happening around me. The younger trees are happy. They enjoy the sounds of the language zephyrs. They like learning when they count for something.
Thank you, Biggest Tree! Thank you for Your attention on our grove and for keeping the grove so nice and still so that we can learn the language of the trees.