62: There’s No Ceiling On Dreams

62: There’s No Ceiling On Dreams

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

There’s No Ceiling On Dreams

If you can dream it, you can do it.

~Walt Disney

If you walked to the end of the hall last year and peeked into my classroom, you would have seen lots of clouds hanging from the ceiling. Suspended by fishing line and paper clips, they’d swing in the breeze. And on each cloud was a dream. Oh, I admit, I stole the idea from another teacher. While attending a summer workshop at another school, I sat in the room and admired the paper clouds floating above us. Each one had “I dream of becoming a lawyer” written on it, or something similar, along with a student’s name.

Visually, they were appealing. The blue marker outline of the puffy poster board clouds against the stark white added some colorful interest to the classroom. At times, they swayed and twisted gently. When the fan was clicked on, some of them rocked wildly back and forth, threatening to careen into each other.

As a third grade teacher, every year my room was decorated in a different way. Sometimes, the changes were subtle — a new motivational banner across a wall or a different bulletin board to display the students’ work. Sometimes, the change was radical and encompassed the entire room. One year I transformed our classroom into a tropical rain forest. Vines hung from the fluorescent lights, a green “canopy” of trees hung from the ceiling tiles, and towering tree trunks were taped to the wall. The next year, we learned surrounded by the African plains.

Those puffy-shaped pieces of paper made me positive of one thing: when September hit, we’d begin the school year by publicly proclaiming our dreams. And I was determined those dreams would float us through the next nine months together.

During a class meeting in early fall, my third graders and I talked about their aspirations. We talked about what happens when people squash things — when we step on an ant, what happens to it? When someone puts the kibosh to our excitement, how do we feel? When people shatter our hope, does that help us reach our goal? Then, I asked the students to dig deep and unearth their dream. What did they want to be when they grew up? Where did they see themselves in twenty years? What did they hesitate to say out loud about their lives?

A couple of my kids wanted to be a doctor. One wanted to be a teacher. Several students voiced their desire to be a professional basketball player. Everybody got a piece of posterboard, and their wish was markered onto the cloud.

Even me. I signed my name under, “My dream is to be a published writer.” It was a desire I’d had for over four decades. Besides, what kind of example would I be setting if my kids were expected to bare their souls, but not me?

There were times during a science or social studies lesson that someone would refer to the clouds, such as “My goal is to be a vet. Do you think Abe Lincoln dreamed of being president when he was our age?” We spoke of historical figures and the obstacles they faced when attaining their goals. In class discussions, we examined evidence of persistence in famous people. With classes in the past, when I sent off a writing submission and got a rejection letter, I would share it with my students, letting them know that those letters that said “no” were proof I had not given up. I was still trying. This group was no different.

In December, I got an acceptance letter. My picture book manuscript was going to become a book. My story about a stray dog was going to be published by a small, independent press. I was beyond ecstatic. Sharing the news with my class, we all celebrated. It was as if the clouds were all connected; when one of us succeeded in reaching our goal, it formed a positive force field to protect all of our dreams.

Soon, the illustrator will be finished and the layout will be complete, and my book will be printed and bound. And when you see it on a bookstore shelf, pull it out, and turn to the page with the acknowledgments. Because there, you’ll see all twenty-five of my students named, along with an expression of my gratitude.

We all had a cloud hanging from the ceiling. And I firmly believe that if I had failed to put my vision out there — alongside my class — I would have failed to reach that goal. You can’t make it come true if you aren’t willing to say it out loud.

~Sioux Roslawski

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