The Delights of Being a Teacher: Episode 451

After my last blog post, I read the news of the Boston Marathon Bombing.  As I sit to write now, the unflolding drama plays in the back of my mind and I wonder what the outcome will be of the way the media is following all of this.  The amount of amateur video and photos in both the bombing and the the explosion in Texas is staggering and adds to the coverage in a way that I fear may lead more to gawking than to empathy.  Yet, I sat down today, not to add to the hills and mountains of reflections on those events, but to share some small, beautiful moments in my life as a teacher.  Perhaps this can refresh you in the midst of the tragedy in the world and remind you that things like education and caring for one another are a big part of changing society.*

So, a few sketches from my Friday.

Scene 1: An English lesson with nine 12-year-olds.

The class has spent the previous 40 minutes as casting directors and actors.  Students have taken turns critiquing performances and auditioning, from scribbling notes furiously to slightly trembling before their classmates.  The teacher approaches the front of the room and addresses the class, but before she can say anything . . . 

Female Student: Please, please, Miss Straszheim, don't say it's time for the break!

Scene 2: An art lesson with about 14 six-year-olds.

The class has just spent the last 45 minutes first revising the story of Daedalus and Icarus and then creating their own depiction.  Some who finished other are doing extra drawings.  It's now clean-up time and students are furiously running around, occasionally lobbing questions at the teacher.

Teacher: Gesticulating. Remember to put your projects on the pile in the corner . . . yes, you can collect the rest of the papers . . . I'm looking for the first table to be cleaned, with all students sitting nicely . . . yes, that drawing looks like you worked very hard on it . . .

Blonde-haired, blue-eyed, cherubic student hands the teacher a picture.  He had previously described the picture and the position of the king, Daedalus, and Icarus.

Cherub 1:  Miss Straszheim, this is for you.  Miss Straszheim, do you know why I made this for you?  Because I like you so much!

At this point, multiple other students start thrusting drawings into the teacher's hands.  The teacher moves to the doorway.

Teacher: When you see the colour of your table, you can push in your chairs and go back to your lesson.  Silently holds up coloured cards, and students leave in response.

Female Student: As she walks out the door.  I like you!

Female Student 2: Thrusts a folded drawing in the teacher's hand with the student's name scrawled on it.  The teacher hasn't yet opened it, but remembers the student holding up a drawing in class and saying, "This is you!"

Teacher follows the last few students out of the class.  

Female Student 2: Turns once again to the teacher.  I like you too!

After speaking briefly with the class teacher about a hair-cutting incident, the teacher leaves the classroom.  Suddenly, one bright-eyed, female student runs urgently out of the classroom towards the teacher.  The teacher turns to the student and leans down to see the student eye-to-eye.

Female Student 3: Shyly Miss Straszheim, I love you!  After beaming a smile, the child bobs away back to her classroom.

Returning to the classroom, the teacher opens the drawing from Female Student 2, revealing a large face drawn in the shape of a heart.

I know, this may sound a bit to sweet and sappy for you, but there is something so beautiful about winning the affection of a child.  I will always believe that love is a stronger motivator than fear and that when you get a child to love you, or for them to believe that you love them, it can transform them and cause them to produce work you wouldn't have imagined.  And, to make this all feel a bit more tangible to you, here's where it most of it happened.

*On this thought of the power of education to change lives, I'll mention that I'm near the end of the book Three Cups of Tea,  a non-fiction work about how Greg Mortenson got involved in cooperating to get schools built in North Pakistan as well as in parts of Afghanistan.  These schools provide a way that the students can access education without going to the often tempting offers of well-funded extremest Madrassas, and rather allow the students to stay in the homes of their families (whatever their belief system) and learn to think for themselves rather than simultaneously be fed a singular way of thinking and then feeling a gratitude/debt towards those educators which can lead down violent paths.


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