what you can learn from a rock

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I came to a small realization about my students today at the Kivimuseo.   When I first walked into the one room-mineral museum nestled in the basement of the city’s library, I was taken aback by how many rocks, shells, minerals, (even dinosaur eggs?) were displayed in such a small, albeit breathtakingly beautiful, space.  I initially questioned the decision to house 7000 objects on display in one room, but gratefully paid my five euros to the woman at the front counter and stepped inside.

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I was the only patron for the entire hour I was there, and the engulfing silence was only occasionally interrupted by the barely audible Finnish chatter of the two female museum workers, and even that was coming from a room some distance away.  The dramatic lighting and presence of so many glass-encased objects, the oldest dating back 3500 million years, made the experience all the more surreal as I quietly roamed the room snapping photographs.

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rock3I circled once.

Then again and again. By the fifth or sixth time around, I realized I was still finding amazingly detailed stones and pieces that I had missed previously.  This went on for quite some time and I was still dazzled, each time around finding new little intricacies or pieces I had somehow overlooked before.

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I think if there had been more museum-goers, I might have called it a day sooner, because I am sometimes too self aware like that. But there was no way I was voluntarily leaving my own personal treasure trove until I had completely absorbed all it had to offer.

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And then it happened..

It was after about forty five minutes that I found it: a little outcrop of green mineral growing atop a beautiful bright pink stone as if it were its own miniature island, as if it had found its own perfect little spot in the world.  I couldn’t believe I had missed it before.

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And that was when I started thinking.  Maybe that is why teachers are so crucial to having a voice in educational decision-making. I mean, sure, I knew I was looking at a room full of beautiful, meaningful, intricate objects the moment I laid my eyes upon the glass enclosure-filled space. But it wasn’t until I had spent the time to examine each one, sometimes again and again and again, that I really began to see the elaborateness and complexities of each individual piece.  And even in doing so, I am sure there were innumerable things I overlooked; how could I have not?

So here it is, here is what that small, seemingly inconsequential bit of green rock made me come to realize:

I am afraid.  I am afraid that some of the people who think they know what is best for my students are not the people who have taken the time to get to know who they are and what they need.  I am afraid that those little green outcrops will never be seen or heard from and be at the mercy of someone who made a decision that will affect their life, someone who knows nothing at all about their life. I am afraid that decisions are being made by someone who doesn’t understand that you need to take a great deal of time, of interaction, to realize the full (and often hidden) potential of anything, even in a rock museum.  Someone who may have just browsed through the gallery a few times, or just peeked their head in for a few minutes.  

Someone who may never even have entered at all.

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About christine mccartney

I am a teacher, a wife, a proud aunt, a dog rescuer, a person who has been rescued by my rescued dogs, a hiker, a four time (phew!) cancer survivor, a runner, a tattoo addict, a vegetarian, an advocate, a friend and a happy traveller. Enjoy!
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17 Responses to what you can learn from a rock

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  2. jenniejaffe says:

    That is a most succinct articulation and beautiful metaphor describing our current dilemma. Would that everyone responsible for putting Education into such turmoil could visit out classes and appreciate the beauty and diversity of those who inhabit them.

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  6. Barb Laird says:

    Christine – In your previous post, I was saddened that the mineral museum was closed. So thanks for returning. As an Earth Science teacher and a fellow rock and mineral nerd, I loved your green mineral analogy! Those most GORGEOUS faceted gems that you were able to photograph in such detail can only form when given space and time – a pocket of air in a molten igneous bubble, or a space within a sedimentary rock that later becomes infused with dissolved salts. Do we give our students the space and time needed to grow?
    I also enjoy gems because they are simple inanimate clusters that grow because of their physical internal arrangement of atoms. Yet, they can take on the most beautiful colors and textures as if they are a living, breathing organism.

  7. jimeejohnson says:

    Your realization reminds me of why judging teacher/student performance based on test scores is wrong: education is dynamic, and reflects the society it serves.

  8. Christine,
    I once heard a very good teacher refer to his lowest-achieving students as a box of rocks. You have given new meaning to rocks. I tell my students on the first day of class, and several times more during the semester, that my job is to give them every opportunity to do their best work. Some don’t, of course, but a surprising number really respond positively and in fact do really good work.
    I share your fear of those people making decisions about public education today, even though I have long been comfortably settled in a very good liberal arts college. Immediately after the Civil War Frederick Law Olmsted remarked that if rich parents sent their children to private schools and everyone else to public schools, our society would lose something essential that binds us together. Were that to happen, he feared, “the wreck of the republic will be upon us.”

    • David,
      First off, thank you for reading the blog and for the email…and for the insightful comment. One thing about this experience so far that I have been so appreciative of is the freedom of time for reflection; having the time to formulate the thoughts that have been sort of building up over the years, but were stymied by the hustle and bustle of a teacher’s everyday life, has been priceless. What joy to spend a morning sipping coffee and plowing through research and articles, then an afternoon wandering the city imagining analogies… so fun and productive at the same time. Keep fighting the good fight 🙂 and of course I welcome communication from Addy and look forward to it.
      *All best

  9. Harry McCartney says:

    Christine, wonderful and amazing mind meanderings………I love the analogy of each child’s uniqueness being ‘written in the stone’………..been following and enjoying your journey………we absolutely need more radicalized teachers, parents, mentors and community members raging against the tops down, legalistic, monied machine that poses as an effective educational system……….bring the good stuff back from Finland and get to work……..Harry

    • thanks Harry! I probably should have consulted you first…I would have had a much better title for this post! Thanks for reading and for comments are ALWAYS welcome. It is nice to hear from my gang back home. Hope granny is well. Give her a big hug for me. xoxo

  10. blkdrama says:

    BTW… what’s your hit number for your letter…

  11. blkdrama says:

    I was wondering where you were going with your experience at the rock museum and

    So here it is, here is what that small, seemingly inconsequential bit of green rock made me come to realize:

    I am afraid. I am afraid that some of the people who think they know what is best for my students are not the people who have taken the time to get to know who they are and what they need. I am afraid that those little green outcrops will never be seen or heard from and be at the mercy of someone who made a decision that will affect their life, someone who knows nothing at all about their life. I am afraid that decisions are being made by someone who doesn’t understand that you need to take a great deal of time, of interaction to realize anything’s full (and often hidden) potential, even in a rock museum. Someone who may have just browsed through the gallery a few times, or just peeked their head in for a few minutes. Someone who may never even have entered at all.

    I am feeling that same fear… Your post is so beautifully written and covered with gorgeous rock images. I loved reading your adventure.
    Here’s something that you might enjoy knowing if you don’t, yet.
    Rebecca and I had dinner last night and she shared the news that her New Paltz district has signed a protest letter for Cuomo: teachers and administrators and parents AGAINST THE TEST! Pushback is happening!!!!

    Patti Stock’s new workshop was amazing…

    And I am up and ready to get to meet some politicians…rather, their aids.

    It’s gonna be cold 🙂

    Bonnie

    christine mccartney | March 21, 2013 at 8:08 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p3eUlp-33
    Comment See all comments Like

    • Of course Patti was awesome!
      That is amazing about news about New Paltz…so close to home!
      Taking the pictures was so much fun. I brought my Macro lens and was worried that, like my iPad (which I haven’t used yet), it was just going to be another thing that got me scolded while checking in at JFK for having too heavy of a bag for no reason. It really takes beautifully detailed pictures.
      I am wishing you guys tons of positive vibes today as you head out to promote all good things!
      And you know what? I am going to get my iPad out right now and listen to some VinylLove…

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