This week is spirit week at my son's day care. Today was silly hat day, so of course, being a sci-fi household, my 15mo son was donning a R2D2 knit hat and a Star Wars onesie. I giggled as he squirmed around in his "Jedi Master in Training" outfit and I desperately tried to snap a photo. I kissed him goodbye and patted him on his R2D2 head. Upon arriving at school, I showed my students, many of whom are avid Star Wars fans and would surely appreciate. A conversation exploded:
"Is that an R2D2 hat?"
"I didn't know that astromech droids could be Jedi."
"Does he make R2D2 sounds? I can! [R2D2 sounds erupt in the classroom.]"
"A Jedi master in training is actually a padawan."
Sometimes, the things they say are well beyond my knowledge. (Admittedly, I have no clue what an astromech droid is, and indeed I had to spell check that as well as padawan!) They are desperate to know more and desperate to share what they already do. I love when they teach me new things. I love when they are so passionate about topics that they chomp at the bit for more information. I love when they stump themselves by asking such deep questions. I love being able to say, "Let's look that up. Let's research that. Let's go dive in and find out."
Each class is different with their passions and interests. This year is a Star Wars year. (Which I enjoy, clearly.) Other years it might be sports, or Minecraft. But, every year, it is also animals. Wild animals. They. Love. Wild. Animals... Year after year. I feel that this interest never fades as the years go by. Whenever we are studying a new topic, it always seems to bend back around to animals. George Washington? Horses and hunting dogs. South America? Sloths, tree frogs, manatees. Community Maps? Pet store animals. Antarctic animals, ocean animals, Asian animals, Virginia animals. Always animals.
They have such fun researching and drawing these animals. I feel like animals are such an untapped, mysterious hook that draws in these "little sponges". They are fascinated and driven to learn more about them. They love the wild, unique facts. They love the gross, cool, impressive facts. Often when they hit a writing roadblock they can un-stick themselves as they begin to think about animals they love or are curious about.
Why are these interests of theirs on my mind? Maybe, it's because when I sat down to write, I was initially stumped for an idea and thought, "What might my kiddos be thinking about as they begin?" Maybe, it's knowing that a big road block for many students is choosing an idea to first start writing about as well. Maybe, just knowing that we teachers know our kiddos well enough to tap into their favorite interests (Star Wars, animals, and beyond) and helping them realize what amazing ideas they already possess, just might shatter that road block them.