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

Thursday, April 15, 2004


so i said, "teach me something."

mid-terms week has been the usual rollercoaster ride. two of my classes share the same curriculum, mostly a writing course, and so i had two independent groups on which to experiment an exam assignment. the essay topic was a result of one of the reflections in this journal: teach me something. i explained to my class that everyday they come to school with the idea that they are the student and i am the teacher. i am supposed to teach them "English" and, at the end of the year, they are supposed to move on with better language skills. i told them i wanted to formally flip the roles for once. "you are the teacher and i am the student." using the skills we have learned in essay writing, they were to write me an essay on something from their own experience, something they knew i would know nothing about. seemed like the best deal for them: write on what you know.

but i received expressions of shock and confusion. some just plain didn't understand. some thought i was crazy. mostly, i think my students didn't feel like they had enough knowledge to teach others. but i was here to convince them that they are full of experience, culture, and history to fill books. all i was asking for was two pages, front & back, double spaced.

i discussed my expectations and them words of encouragement. slowly, a few kids shouted out their ideas: how to cook a Puerto Rican dish, my job at navy peir, how to play basketball, how to do spots (graffiti). i had to guide a few along, for instance one girl who couldn't come up with any ideas. i glanced at her clean white sneakers and the coordinated reds and whites of her outfit. i told her, "what's the difference between you and me?" pause. then i looked down at my clothes, "do you think i have style?" she smiled, definitely on the verge of laughing at her unspoken answer. she began writing.

since then, i've read a few and discovered the most moving lessons, like how to be a supportive boyfriend to your pregnant girlfriend. one of my students, who has resisted class work almost everyday, wrote how he really feels deep down about school and how he truly has respect for his teachers despite how he acts. i couldn’t believe it.

once each one of my students had found their topic, they began writing and the room was silent, most writing right up to the end of the period. they worked hard and were completely engaged. i still smile when i think back...


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