Just open your eyes and see.
When I was in the third grade, my grandmother urged me to participate in my elementary art show titled “Just Open Your Eyes and See…”. My art skills to this day still consist of stick figures and fundamental shapes, but that was not my grandmother’s purpose. Secretly, she was asking me to open my eyes and see. With that project, my grandmother, a retired teacher herself, taught me about life. She opened my eyes to the world in which we live. We reminisced about family members and discussed my future aspirations. We traced the memories and fantasized my dreams. It was, at this time, that my grandmother helped me to genuinely see my world.
As my world developed, however, my grandmother was no longer around to open my eyes, so I had to open my own eyes. Yet, instead of imagining happy dreams and heartfelt memories, I was living in a harsh reality. I witnessed divorce, death and failure. My third grade fairy tale seemed to quickly fade to a misty-eyed reality.
Blink. Fight back those tears.
Blinking for me was my childhood escape from reality.
Open your eyes. I heard my grandmother’s voice in the image of another. She stood about 5’5” in her fragile, delicate body. She wore bright red lipstick that released morning coffee breath every time she spoke. She engaged, and challenged me beyond frustration. Dr. Barbara Buedel, my Spanish professor, kept my eyes from blinking—from escaping. She opened my eyes to a culturally diverse world, challenging me to the brink of blinking, but never letting me escape. With one simple question, “When are you going to learn for the love of learning?” she revealed the true purpose of education.
As educators, we must open our eyes and see.
On our worst days, do we blink at a classroom full of clutter and stacks of ungraded tests? Do we see fragile students in fear of failure? Do we tirelessly blink at an empty lesson plan and a blank computer screen? Blink. Escape. Now, open our eyes and see.
In our proudest moments, we see classrooms filled with laughter, discoveries and ‘ah-ha’ moments. We see delicate students eager to learn for the love of learning. We see unfinished lesson plans crumbled on the floor, as we try again and again to script our ultimate masterpiece. Open our eyes. Open them wider. See the light.
Unfortunately in education, there are moments where we could blink from reality over and over. We want to deny those moments of helplessness. When chaos breaks loose in our classrooms or students begin to give up on themselves, we want to hide. Yet, we resist that blink when eager students continually ask questions and connect the dots from the classroom to reality. It is in these moments, we do not even think about escaping. The fact is that all educators will blink. We will feel helpless, at some point. Yet, blinking lasts one second. One second too long. One…
Open our eyes. Face reality.
In this 21st century world, we have the ability to open the eyes of the 21st century holistic learners. We have the capability to bridge the gap between students and the community by connecting our students with real-life learning opportunities. Most importantly, we can mold life-long passionate students committed to learn for the love of learning.
When my eyes are open, I see a classroom full of students with different visions of the world. Some open their eyes from poverty, while others come to us from lives of multiple opportunities. Nevertheless, I open my eyes to students who have the world at their fingertips. It is my daily challenge to open my students’ eyes to a community and an entire world with boundless opportunities.
I open my own eyes to students who challenge me daily to be the best possible teacher. I open my eyes to students whom I expect to practice 21st century skills, to grasp challenges and to enrich themselves in real-life experiences beyond the classroom setting.
I am that teacher that encourages open eyes, with a hint of sparkle. I am that teacher that discourages a blink. What kind of teacher are you?
Open your eyes.
I dare you.