"Education is not a product: mark, diploma, job, money; It is a process, a never-ending one." -bel kaufman

Thursday, February 05, 2004


the satisfaction of looking back on two great days

yes, today was an even better day.

third period:
i needed to help two students catch up on their english 1 work and we worked together to complete a poetry lesson. the significance of this moment is that one of these students has never done any of my work before. he is a comedian and loves the attention from joking around in class, but he usually uses this distracting technique to his advantage so as to draw attention away from doing work. but today, he read Meeting At Night by Robert Browning out loud to me. and i slowly went through this poem, line by line, giving these two students hints to reveal the story Browning has created--much like as Dr. Hannum had for me in eleventh grade. i saw their faces change from blank stares to smiling excitement. "They're sneaking around to get it on, Nic!" and he raised his hand up to give me a high-five. i smiled and laughed. "Look, Nic--your getting all red in the face again!"

later in third period, i pulled out a polaroid picture of my girlfriend to show one of my students. he had asked me to bring it and said he would bring a photo of his girl, too, but alas he forgot. i think he just wanted me to prove i actually had a girl. the polaroid was soon being passed around to every student, each getting boisterous and hollering out about the teacher's cute date. the class comedian--the one i had helped earlier with the Browning poem--he immediately took his chance to point out my red face. "Dang Nic, stop getting so red!"

sixth period:
my pen was stolen. the nice silver metal Cross pen i was given as a gift by Aspira, the non-profit organization that oversees our high school. but it didn't really matter for this day was unfolding so nicely. sixth period was a success. i handed out a reading worksheet on Fair Trade. there are three questions they must answer by the end of class. i tried discussing the topic out loud with the class, but, like most days, they wanted more to interrupt the teacher and try to steer me off course, so i moved on to encouraging students to read and working with them one-on-one. by the end of the class, i had the majority of the students involved in discussing global market issues (fair pay to farmers, advantages of organic crops, and the concept of a "living wage"). i received a lot of "but people don't care" and "who has time for that?", but then in a sudden flow i was able to successfully communicate my thoughts and purpose in giving this lesson to them (i am often unsuccessful in communicating my purpose clearly and effectively, which is frustrating. working with high school students is often like speaking to a wall.) i summarized my goal in giving them this worksheet today. holding up the piece of paper, i say "I provide you with a concept [for social change], for instance Fair Trade Coffee, and then i give you an example of a local project that is making the concept work [the Coalition Cafe]."
"But people really don't care about this stuff."
"No, people don't know about this. Did you know about Fair Trade before this class?"
i receive a few who shake their heads. one student blurts out a resounding, "Nope."
"That's why i'm teaching you this. Because no one else is."
then that one student student stands up, walks towards me, and hands me his completed worksheet. he is filled with some kind of energy i have not seen before. he puts out his hand to give me five, but then pulls me close with one arm to give me one of those shoulder hugs i see close friends do in this school. a few students shout out, "Look at him, he's gettin all buddy with the teacher!"
with confidence and strength, he says to me and to the class, "That's my boy, right here. That's my boy."


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