I’m so grateful to Leah for this beautiful piece for my classroom. Not only does it manage to bring Hamilton in and is just gorgeous, but she couldn’t have chosen a phrase more suited to my philosophy about learning.
I firmly believe that the human brain is an incredible machine. There is nothing that your mind can’t do. In Hamilton, when the line is sung, it’s not entirely a good thing. Eliza is singing about her worry as Hamilton speaks to her father about marriage. The human brain does seem to have an impressive capacity for anxiety. And anxiety certainly plays a role in my life in the classroom. I am amazed at all my brain can do when it comes to worrying about my students and whether or not I’m doing everything I can for them or if what I’m doing is the right thing.
But this quote speaks to me in a different way. I believe we are all capable of so much, often so much more than we believe we are. We doubt our minds and our abilities all the time. Having this constant reminder that ‘there is nothing that your mind can’t do’ hanging in my classroom will help me and my kiddos believe in ourselves.
I’ve worked with about 25 students every year now for nearly two decades. That’s a lot of students. I never cease to be amazed by their thinking, their questioning, and their brilliance. One of my greatest fears as a teacher is that I am consistently underestimating my students, not asking as much of them as they are capable of giving.
My goal is to start with a really high bar for myself and my students. If I need to add scaffolds to help us get there, that’s fine. But I don’t want to assume their minds can’t do something before we even begin. What I’ve found this year, with my 3rd graders, is that the more challenging something is, the more effort they’re willing to give it. I’ve watched them stretch and push when I think I would have given up. There’s nothing that your mind can’t do.
In Hamilton this line comes from the song, Helpless. I believe that because there is nothing that our minds can’t do we won’t ever be helpless.