Today’s theme for Writer’s Notebook Entry (as taken from Two Writing Teachers) is: Who has changed your life? What person or people have made such a huge impact on your life that they’ve changed the course of it for you?
Many people have changed my life over the course of the last 24 years. I sat down and tried to choose one to write about and realized I couldn’t do that without feeling like I was leaving someone out. Instead, I decided to take the topic in a new direction.
My life, both personal and professional, was changed 3 years ago when I entered my cooperating teacher’s classroom for my first practicum. Her classroom was full of monarch butterflies. They decorated the walls, windows, ceiling, bulletin boards, bookshelves, and desks. Monarchs at all stages of the life cycle were present in her room that day- eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and adults. To be frank, I thought it was a little crazy.
Over the course of the next few months, I slowly learned about monarch butterflies. I watched as the third-graders in my charge watched, wide-eyed, as an adult emerged from its chrysalis for the first time. I saw the wonder and amazement in their eyes as they saw their caterpillars metamorphosize in their classroom. I joined them as they waved goodbye to the adult monarchs at their butterfly release. I was amazed by their knowledge and expertise when they gave tours of the classroom or explained their classroom pets to visitors. They truly were “monarch experts”.
For the next year I was back and forth in that classroom, eventually doing my own student teaching there. Throughout this time, Sue encouraged me to take the workshop which inspired her- Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies. I always managed to put it off due to work or school commitments, telling myself that I had already learned everything I needed to know in that classroom. Finally, I managed to squeeze the 3-day workshop into my schedule.
Those 3 days were the most powerful in my short teaching career. The friends and colleagues I met inspired me creatively, professionally, and personally. Since then, I have raised monarchs every spring and summer. Monarchs are my classroom in the fall, and this year they are the theme of my classroom. The power and strength of this tiny insect, less than 3 inches wide, is awe-inspiring. As I tell my students, if this tiny butterfly with fragile wings can migrate 2000 miles to forest that its great-great-great grandparents left in the previous spring, then we can do anything.
This winter, I will finally be traveling to Mexico to visit the over-wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly, in the Transvolcanic Mountains of Mexico. I fully expect to be a different person when I return. So while the monarchs themselves aren’t a “person”, they have made me the teacher, global citizen, and human being that I am today.