Survival of the Brainiest

In 8th grade science, students study adaptations and natural selection as evidence for Darwin's theory of evolution. It's a great unit, very well planned and executed by the 8th grade science team. At one point the students have an assignment to create a "build a beast". This is a made up creature that must have adaptations for survival in a randomly selected environment.
In the spirit of cross curriculum work, I decided to have some fun with this. At the end of a test students had the option of creating a creature specially adapted to survive in a math classroom. The following list represents some of my favorite adaptations:

big brain, for thinking
big eyes that never close
an extra set of ears for listening
calculator built in to tummy
ruler limbs and a slope intercept body
graphite tipped nails for writing
flat butt for sitting all day (HAHA)
powerful Chuck Norris roundhouse to solve fractions
a digestive system that makes it so he never goes to the bathroom (which would interrupt learning)
weak legs, taking away the temptation to do sports, leaving more time to study
a small mouth to prevent the temptation to talk

The pictures students drew were fantastic and the names of creatures where great:

Sometimes teaching is just plain fun. 



There are moments. Small ones. Unexpected. Unplanned. Moments when I remember why I got into teaching. I'm talking about the very very first reasons I got in to this job. Before I found a love of teaching Algebra. Before I realized I loved teaching middle school. Before I had a passion for imparting learning. Before all that. Freshman year of college. Picking a major. When I imagined I could make lives better. I could make students happy. I could, if I did this well enough, change the world. It didn't matter what subject I taught or even how I taught it. I just wanted to be a part of education.
It's not that I don't still hope for that. It's just, as I get deeper into the practice of education the focus of my passion has shifted. I think it had to. The hardest truth in teaching is that you can't save every child from the world just by wanting to. Not every student will love my course just because I care about them. The problems outside the classroom are big and so many lives, even in a nicer school like mine, are sad. It can consume me if I don't put a little distance between me and the outside world. So, I focus on what I can control. I can control the math. I can control the instruction. I can control my room. I make my classroom safe and I keep my standards high. And if I do my job well, I can give each student a fair and equitable shot at taking control of his or her life through a better education.

But then.....

one moment, one conversation, one goodbye reminds me that i am still effecting lives.

 that i do more than teach math.

i can still give hope to students that feel hopeless.

suddenly the day stops. for just a moment. It gets real. i see a student clearly, really clearly, for the first time.

Then, I pull it together. Wipe away a few tears. Put my head up, put a smile on, and head back in to my classroom.

A moment like that feels so bittersweet. So full of regret, so full of hope. I am so thankful to this student, this unexpected student and this unexpected moment.