The Margins

This weekend I saw a tweet from a former colleague from my time in Ecuador.  He’s now teaching via a virtual program, which means he doesn’t get to work with students face to face at all.  He mentioned that what he misses the most is “the margins” and it got me thinking; that’s exactly where all of the best parts of being an educator happen, in the margins.

“The margins” may look different at each grade level or in each classroom but I see them as the less structured times, the times when there isn’t a formal lesson happening, and when the kids may not realize they’re actually still learning.  What they’re learning may not be written down in the state standards or formalized in a curriculum but it’s the stuff that will endure.  They’re watching and listening, they’re following the lead of their role models (probably you!), and they’re learning more about themselves than they’ll ever realize.  The margins are a beautiful place filled with quick notes about life’s lessons and the seeds of relationships that will continue to grow.

This phrase, “the margins”, is new to me and I love it.  It’s the space, I’ve realized, where most of my interactions with students take place as an administrator.  Whether at lunch time or recess, before or after school, in the hallways during passing time or while lined up for the bathroom, the margins are where I have a prime chance to build relationships with students.  The margins, just like the margins on an essay, are the blank space around the academic day; the perfect place for informal learning and extra opportunities.  

I’ve never really sat down and thought about my time in the margins before.  As I reflect on the concept of “the margins” I realize that they have been something very important to me ever since my first year as a teacher.  As a teacher I would eat lunch with my students frequently, I’d play basketball or soccer at recess, and I’d walk students home to carry their tuba or meet their families.  I did all of these things because I wanted to get to know my students and build relationships with them, building relationships has always been a priority for me but I never realized how much of that work was done in the margins until now.

My margins have changed over the years but how I spend my time there hasn’t.  

Where are your margins? How do you spend your time in the margins?

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