Not enough conversations start off with the words: “My dad has a sock maker and…”
But that’s just how a smiling student addressed his math teacher the other day when he dropped by her classroom at break and found a few of us chatting about the upcoming Pi Day.
His teacher, encouraging her students to have fun as they thought about ways to celebrate 3.14.15, had mentioned that she was hoping to see a few inspired ideas that would knock her socks off.
This intrepid 7th grader certainly did.
He’d brought in a few paper plates for the pie he knew his class would be sharing, and handed them to his teacher as a courier might deliver a package. Sensible, I thought, but hardly inspired. Then, grinning, he held out a present that was, and he uttered that wonderful, underused conversation starter.
“You said you wanted something that would knock your socks off,” he said. It did.
Laughing as we read the inscription on the socks, we enjoyed this unscripted moment of playfulness.
The ability for students and teachers to laugh together is a profound example of the health of a school community.
This isn’t to say that either adults or kids are comedians; learning is serious business and rigor can’t be sacrificed for an easy laugh. Real moments, however, when students show that they know that their teachers care about them and they feel safe enough to be goofy, are not less precious when they are commonplace.
Just this year I’ve seen students have fun with adults on campus as they made our assistant principal into a zombie at Halloween, dressed like a favorite math teacher on twin day, and poured a bucket of water over my head.
Feeling comfortable together makes teaching and learning better for everyone. The relationship between teacher and student is perhaps the most important factor in education, and when it’s great it can knock your socks off.