It’s a story many of you already know. But perhaps on a Monday late in the school year with state assessments all around us, it bears repeating. I was reminded of the story while browsing through an old teaching strategy article from the Organization of American Historians.
Charles Francis Adams, grandson of John Adams and son of John Quincy Adams, served as a Massachusetts state senator, a US Congressman and ambassador to Great Britain under Abraham Lincoln. He was also very conscientious about keeping a daily journal and encouraged his children to do the same.
Henry Brooks, fourth of seven children, followed his advice and began journaling at a young age. A particular entry written when Brooks was eight has continued to catch our attention. Following a day spent with his father, he wrote
Went fishing with my father today, the most glorious day of my life.
The day was so glorious, in fact, that Brooks continued to talk and write about that particular day for the next thirty years. It was then that Brooks thought to compare journal entries with his father.
For that day’s entry, Charles had written:
Went fishing with my son, a day wasted.
Now it’s possible that Charles was upset that they came home empty-handed, having caught no fish. But even so, he seems to have forgotten that the process is sometimes more important than the product. That the time spent with kids is usually more important than what we do with them.
It’s easy to forget the powerful impact we can have with our students just with the time we spend with them. So a gentle reminder during the assessment season . . . focus on the kid, not just her test scores.