Silver Linings

I can’t remember exactly how the conversation started, but I know it was during morning meeting. This year, we’ve often talked about choosing the lens through which we see the world. For example, right now our class focus, inspired by Irene Latham and Charles Water’s Dictionary for a Better World, is “kindness.” So, we’re trying to keep a keen eye out for acts of kindness and put them on our “Catch ’em Being Kind” bulletin board. We’ve talked about how looking for kindness helps us see it in our daily lives, which makes us feel good and also inspires us to be more kind. Somehow during the twists and turns of our discussion, I said something about “silver linings.”

They looked at me blankly.

“Have you ever heard that expression?” I asked. I fully anticipated a hand or two to shoot up, but none did, and heads shook from side to side.

“Oh,” I said, “well, have you ever seen a big dark cloud that blocks the sun, but the sun behind it lights up its edges so they sort of shimmer or glow?”

They nodded and I continued.

“Well, that’s called a silver lining. So sometimes when people are in the midst of hard times or unpleasant things, like a dark cloud, they notice there are some positive things happening, too. They call those silver linings. It’s sort of a metaphor for being optimistic–seeing the good things in the midst of the bad.”

This led into a conversation about the “up-sides” or silver linings of Covid. Spontaneously, I asked them to share any silver linings they’d had in their experience with Covid. Several students raised their hands immediately.

“I’ve learned to bake,” a student said. “I used to need a lot of help, but now I can bake things by myself.”

“We’ve gone hiking a lot more,” another student volunteered.

B. raised her hand. “I’ve been reading so much,” she said. ” I’ve had more time at home, so I just read and read and read.” Several other kids made our silent class “agree” signal.

Then, another student raised his hand.

“I learned to read during the pandemic,” he announced proudly.

Oh.

What a powerful statement that is.

“I learned to read during the pandemic.”

It just grabs you, doesn’t it? My heart swelled and the comment took me back to a staff meeting late last summer, probably before school even started. Our Principal, in a wry voice, said, “Well, welcome to the job you never applied for and didn’t want, but now you’ve got it. Congratulations!” Then he went on, in all seriousness, to talk about the work ahead. At one point he said, “When people ask you what you’re doing, just say ‘I’m teaching during a pandemic.'”

I didn’t play a part in that student learning to read, as his academic instruction doesn’t occur in our classroom. But I’m here, every day, doing my best to teach during a pandemic–trying to help kids navigate these crazy times, find joy in their worlds, and grow as learners and people. It’s tough work and sometimes it threatens to pull me under. But then I think of those silver linings. Of that student proclaiming, “I learned to read during a pandemic. Of another student who during a writing reflection wrote, “I used to be the kind of writer who didn’t like writing, but now I’m really interested in doing writing.”

Just like kindness, if you keep your eye out for the silver linings, you’ll find them.

And though I need to be reminded of this once in a while, many of them are happening in my fourth grade classroom every day.

11 thoughts on “Silver Linings

  1. mgminer says:

    There is much to be grateful for, even now. I love that your students could articulate their silver linings – especially the “I learned to read.” That’s priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. gailaldousmsncom says:

    Molly, thank you for a uplifting and powerful post. Dictionary For a Better World seems like it would be the perfect book to inspire kindness and silver linings. What I’ve seen of the book I love! It’s on my books to buy list. “I learned to read.” definitely grabbed me! So much joy in your student’s silver linings. You are a great teacher to have taken the time to plan the lesson to coax these silver linings to come out. What a wonderful day you had. The joys of teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks, Gail. Dictionary for a Better World has really framed a lot of our classroom culture work this year. It’s a fabulous book! Also, I’d like to say I planned the lesson, but really this happened quite serendipitously!

      Like

  3. amyilene says:

    You captured a moment in your class so perfectly, I felt as if I was there (although I am so curious about the “silent class agree signal”!). Those moments when something really happens in our classrooms, whether we intended for it –or even applied for the job–or not are really my silver linings. Thank you for your slice!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks! It was an important reminder to me to notice all the wonderful things going on even when I am sometimes struggling to make it through the day. I’m not sure where I first got the silent “signal” but I’ve used it in my class for years. We use it to show we agree with something someone thought, felt or said. You make a fist, extend your pinky and thumb, and then raise your hand, shaking your wrist back and forth, kind of like a nod. I don’t know if that will help you visualize it or not! lol

      Like

  4. Tabatha says:

    Thanks for sharing this moment with us, Molly!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mitchell Linda says:

    Molly, I’m tearing up. This is a beautiful moment. Thank you for capturing it in this SOL. I’m so proud of the kids, of you, of those of us working anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the window into your classroom, your students, and your teaching. I remember you saying it’s been one of your best years. Today’s slice shows me why. As usual, I think your writing would be loved by a wider audience. There must be a teachers’ website where you could cut and paste this piece. No, I have no idea where you would find it. And yes, I get that you have a lot going on in your life. But your writing inspires.

    Liked by 1 person

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