Here, Grab My Hand
by Donna Sherry
"Come on, Miss Sherry. It’s easy."
"Here grab my hand - I’ll show you how."
"Can’t you do this, Miss Sherry? Watch me. I’ll show you."
These words of wisdom were yelled to me by my fourth graders one day at a nearby roller skating rink. The scene will always stay with me. There I was clinging for dear life to one of my "helpers" saying, "No. . . I, ah, can’t. I know I can’t!" I was sure I’d get out into the middle of that rink and never be seen again. But the troops would not hear of me taking my skates off. One student at each arm and ten following in the rear to "steady" me, and I was out in the midst of kids skating in every direction. With my eyes sealed closed and my attendants pushing, panting, and encouraging, I managed to make it around the rink. Proud of their accomplishment my students were ready to teach me the ropes of skating . . . how to start, stop, go backwards, turn around in flight! But when it came time to show me how to do a "wheelie." I panicked and ran to the concession stand!
I sat down with a bottle of root beer and began to observe my students in a place I don’t often see them, outside of the classroom. Every one of those youngsters was out there skating. At the time I was surprised to see so much enthusiasm and laughing and falling down, getting up and trying again. What amazed me was that this scene was different from the normal everyday classroom epic. Not one of my students sat on the sidelines and watched. Not one of these students was unable to get out there. All of them - even my most uncoordinated student - was out on the rink risking and having fun. I realized I was the only one from our class not out there. So then and there I made a decision. I put my root beer down, took a deep breath, skated onto the rink, got rid of my teacher role and became a learner. My students taught me how to skate!
It’s difficult to put into words the expressions on some of the faces of my students when they saw that I couldn’t do something. Some joked and kidded, others were concerned, still others skeptical. As time went on, though, that day was continually brought up. "Remember when Miss Sherry flew into Mr. Wippel (our principal) when she was at the end of the whip?" "Yeah, and when she almost banged right into the wall. Good thing we were there to show you how, huh, Miss Sherry?" Although we joked and laughed about my experience, I realized how important it was for my kids to see me in a situation where I didn’t know as much as they knew.
Back in the classroom I try to let my students see that there, also, I do not know everything. I see how important it is for them to figure out a problem that I can’t solve. They’re proud of what they can do. I try to instill in my class that there are many things we all can’t do, but the important thing to remember is that we make an effort.
Whenever I go out to the skating rink with my group, I become a little more confident in my skating ability. I hope that whenever my students go farther in reading or math or English that they, too, will feel more confident in their ability to learn. We are all teachers and we are all learners. In the book, The Geranium On The Window Sill Just Died But Teacher You Went Right On, by Al Cullum, a student says,
"Teacher, come on outside
Here’s to all of us who can grab a hand and
learn all over again!