Preparing for a state of awe

Last year people around the country prepared for a massive solar eclipse. One that would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. People booked hotels in the line of totality over a year in advance. They planned watch parties and scouted out the best seats to watch this celestial event. We learned about eclipse glasses and the dangers of staring at an eclipse (including way too many pictures on Facebook of what happens to your retina when you look directly at the sun).

As a teacher we planned an entire days worth of activities including writing activities, science lessons, and a watch party. We ordered the special glasses for all of the students and staff in the building and went outside at the appropriate time. Thirty minutes before the event we went outside and set up blankets to watch the sky. The time came, we glimpsed the miraculous, and then we went back inside to reflect on what we had just witnessed. This was truly an awe-inspiring event.

I think about all of the work we put into being in awe of something. We were preparing to be amazed by this spectacular day, and it makes me want to recreate that in my classroom. It’s doesn’t have to be an every day event, otherwise it would be exhausting and lose it’s novelty. But a couple of times a year I plan out events just like that. I want moments in my class that will stick with students for the rest of their lives. I want events that will be unforgettable.

This year we’ve had two events already, a day where we took a trip on a plane complete with snacks and a flight attendant (who looks a lot like me).

We also took a trip up Mt. Everest complete with camp flags, hot tea, and sadly several students receiving frostbite for the rest of the day.

These are events former students come back and ask about. It’s not the riveting lectures about protagonists and antagonists or the deep discussions about the novels we are reading. It’s the moments that leave them in a state of awe.

How do you inspire a state of awe in your classroom?

Shout-out to Pastor Isaac Anderson for his talk at the Christmas Eve service for inspiring this blog post.

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