Memory Triggers – what we learn

This weekend I was scrolling through Facebook and read a short post by a fellow gardener. She was noting the coming of Autumn. Her post referenced walking in the meadow and getting a sweet whiff of ripening wild grapes. This short phrase sent me instantly back to my childhood. I could hear, see, smell and feel the pleasure and fear of lying under a grape arbor on the way home from school. I could feel the pleasure of wild green leaves, see the tendrils winding around the wires and ripe grapes hanging in bunches, the sunlight drifting down through the foliage and the smell and taste of sweetness from the purple grapes being popped into my mouth with juice sliding down my throat. Then the quick sound came of the angry elderly lady who owned the grape arbor and was not interesting in having young school children eating her grapes. Her voice was following by our scrambling out from under the arbor and running as fast as possible down the alley and away, hearts racing as fast as our feet. Oh, but that sweet moment of lying under the grapes and looking up with rich sights and smells. A powerful moment to remember.

Last week I watched as my fourteen-month-old grandson, Mason, go from an angry mood to a fascinated quiet look as I began to sing a song. When Mason was very young, a few months old and he found it hard to settle into a nap I would sing (off key for sure) songs I knew when I was little – She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain, Rain, Rain Go Away and others. Each of these were repeated many times. As he has gotten a wee bit older I have stopped my off key sing until last week. He was cutting teeth and in a foul mood. I was trying to change a diaper and a battle began. In a desperate try to settle him I began singing those early songs. He instantly stopped and looked deeply at me. This was something he knew. This was a sound he understood to give comfort and he smiled and continued to listen. I got the diaper changed and we had a better day all around. Mason and I learned a song can change his mood.

It is these moments of memory that trigger big emotions and thoughts. Somethings these triggers are happy and full of love. Other times they can be fearful, dark and frightening. No matter what these moments are key to our learning. We hold on to emotional moments good and bad. We learn from these times. The learning at these moments is not always intentional, but learning happens.

So today I thought a lot about what teachers and students are learning as they work their way through this “thing” we call distance learning.

  • How do we respond to our students?
  • What do we do with our own frustration when things are not working as planned? 
  • How do we respond to our students when they are struggling either with new content or with technology that is not working?

How to we help each other make these moments one of joy and happiness? How do we make sure students remember this new learning as a fun adventure and not a fearful, scary time?  For sure you as a teacher are scared. This is hard and hard work but if you can find the adventure in this learning you all might be able to smile at the end of each day.

How did your day go today? How do you think your students felt at the end of the day?

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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2 Responses to Memory Triggers – what we learn

  1. Such a great write-up. I am a blogger from India. Please have a look at my blog too.

  2. Ramona says:

    Love the memory triggered by the mention of wild grapes. I loved the image of that grape arbor and the sights and smells you felt as you lay under it. I love how you related this emotional moment to the songs you sing to Mason and the impact they make on him. Music is powerful. Keep singing, Grandma!

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