I don’t think it’s coincidental that I stumbled across and began the book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Kaltner. Witnessing the possible in students, seeing the transformations, and celebrating the learning this semester allowed me to experience my own recent small moments of awe.
This book review by Edward Posnett of The Guardian begins with his astute observation: “I find it hard to think of a word that is as unmoored from its root as “awesome”. He’s right, and I have now resolved to restrict my use of this throwaway term often used for everything from a synonym for “okay” to an acknowledgement of agreement. In his book, Keltner, a University of California psychologist, tells the story of awe from a historical, social, and biological perspective. He argues that awe helps us develop happiness and feel a part of something larger than ourselves. I’m not quite done the book, but the descriptions of awe in prisons, at the death of his brother, and in momentary interactions with the natural world, meant that I began seeing the everyday differently.
This week during summative portfolio presentations, I experienced a sense of awe through witnessing student growth. Here are some awesome summative portfolios which were shared with me (and with permission to share with you).
This massive camera construction contained evidence of reading with literary lenses, an understanding of the focus on narrative, informational, analytical, and a film strip of writing that actually works!
Another student created a magazine full of evidence which introduces prospective students to the course. He maintained a focus on third person with clear and consistent tone and presented this in a professionally prepared media text.
This portfolio was presented as a children’s story complete with working parts and hand painted images.
And finally, there was a vinyl album with liner notes used to contain evidence of writing throughout the semester.
These moments of shared learning felt transcendent in small but meaningful ways — everyday moments of awe.