Seek the Positive Energy

Seek the Positive Energy
Posted on 12/21/2021
students from BSSD Teacher of the Year's science class

I ran out to the store to pick up the last few items I needed for the Thanksgiving dinner I was hosting the next day. The traffic was dense. The crowds were large, a mix of last-minute Thanksgiving runs like mine and early birds trying to get a head start on holiday shopping and beat the Black Friday craziness.

I was preoccupied with the calculus needed to time a dozen dishes coming together at the same time and realized there was still a lot of prep to do. Simultaneously, walking through a store that had already shifted toward the next round of holidays, I started making a separate mental list of all that needed to be done in the next month. I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, wondering why we put ourselves through all of this.

However, I happened to bring my 3-year-old on this particular trip, and his perspective on everything was quite different. “Ooooooooooohh!!!” as he marveled at the over-the-top decorations. “Look, Mom, look!!!” as he turned every corner finding something exciting and new. He squealed with delight and screamed “SANTA!!!” each time he saw the jolly old elf. That wonder and awe continued at home where he looked wide-eyed at a turkey almost as big as him (that he won’t eat a bite of), was amazed by the tall twinkling tree that popped up in our living room (as if it doesn’t happen every year), and immediately claimed every decoration and package as “his” as they appeared (we’ll keep working on the real reason for the season).

It takes that type of reaction from my kids to remind me why we go to all the trouble of building and maintaining family traditions around the holidays: the joy it brings them is electric and that spark jumps to everyone else around them. Maybe we can call it the “magic” of the holidays, but that jolt of energy is unmistakable. It is what powers us through all the work it takes to pull off the holidays year after year.

Though trading ribbons and bows for scalpels and guts may seem like odd shift, my child’s reaction to the holidays reminded me a lot of my classes’ annual frog dissection. This is a very important activity because it teaches students about the internal structures of animals, how different tissues and organs work together, and the complexity of living things. This lesson is also often cited by students as what first made them interested in pursuing a career in medicine. All that being said, it is also a ton of work, requires close management of the students, and leaves my room a sticky, smelly mess. In many ways, I dread this lesson and wonder why I keep bringing it back year after year.

However, every year without fail, I am reminded by my students’ reactions and engagement why I do the frog dissection. They are captivated by the hands-on nature of the activity. Kids who are sometimes distracted or detached from traditional lessons become laser-focused on the task at hand. Reluctant kids overcome their squeamishness and take the lead in their groups. Scientific awe and curiosity fill the room, which (mostly) overcomes the smell. When I survey the kids at the end of the year about their experiences, this activity always stands out in how memorable and impactful it is to them, and that creates an energy that helps me recharge and recommit to the process. I would still rather be opening a gift than a bullfrog, but it is worth it.

Over the holidays, I do hope everyone can find some time to relax – from the holidays, school, and work. Everyone deserves a little rest. However, I think to fully recharge we also need a jolt of energy. I want to encourage and cheer on everyone putting in extra time and effort to create special experiences for our kids – whether at home or at school. Though at times it may seem thankless and unrewarding in the moment, those special experiences create a magical energy that helps power their lives. Whether that is a holiday tradition that they carry on with their own family or a classroom experience that opens their mind to new career possibilities, the work is worth the effort.