Teaching The Teacher

I have a secret: I’m terrible at recycling! Okay, I said it. I can’t seem to sort the garbage correctly. I don’t take enough time to try. I just throw things out. This year though, as part of our Eco Schools Initiative, we have single-stream recycling. This recycling program is meant for me. It’s easy: there’s garbage and there’s recycling. That’s it. There’s no need to separate cans, bottles, newspapers, and cardboard. They can all go together in the same bin.

When I heard about this back in September, I was excited! This was a recycling system I could handle, or so I thought. It’s hard to re-train yourself though, and as I said before, I’m terrible at recycling. So even with the easiest system ever in place, I was still throwing everything in the garbage. Then about a month ago, things started to change. I didn’t make a change. My students changed me.

One day, I went to throw a stack of paper in the garbage, and one of my grade 2 students stopped me. She said, “Miss Dunsiger, doesn’t that belong in the blue bin?” She was right. So I put the paper in the blue bin, and I started to get better at putting paper in the blue bin. Students were constantly reminding me what to do. They weren’t being mean; they were being helpful. 

Then things got even better. If I made a mistake and put recycling in the garbage can, students quickly pointed it out to me, and we got some gloves and made a change. Both the students and I were being far more cognizant of what we were doing with our garbage. The results were incredible! Over the past month, we’ve reduced our garbage by at least half.

The impossible was achieved: thanks to six- and seven-year-olds, I now recycle. Today though was the real miracle:

My class received the “gold bin” for recycling! Thanks to the Eco Team, the students actually got to present the bin to me, as they were the ones that helped make the difference in our classroom.

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It may have taken me a while to get to this point, but I have my wonderful students and the incredible Eco Team to thank. Today I learned that anything’s possible. What have your students taught you before? I’d love to hear your stories!


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