This is my space to rant and rave, vent and vex about education, my passion. I am calling it "Mining for Hidden Gems" because of the above quote and because as a teacher, my job is to look for those gems. The real valuable ones are not usually on the surface. You have to dig deep to find them.

I am also borrowing from Katherine Bomer's wonderful book Hidden Gems: Naming and Teaching From the Brilliance in Every Student's Writing. It has changed the way I look at not just student work but students themselves and all people around me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Sliver Of Something Different

Years ago I read a book by Leon Dash called Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America.  It is the biography of a drug addicted, AIDS infected grandmother on welfare as well as  the story of her children.  Well written and gripping, Dash writes about how six of Rosa's eight children lived a similar life of poverty, illiteracy and crime, whereas two of them were able to escape that cycle.  One of them  started along the same path, but was arrested for robbery at a very early age.  The experience was enough to scare him straight.  But the part of this story that I keep retelling is the reason why the eighth child broke away and was able to make a middle class life for himself. It turns out that because he was a good natured, quiet child he would get invited to classmates' homes to play and he would notice that not everyone lived as he did.  He had caught a glimpse into another world and it was enough to convince him that there was a different way to live than what he was accustomed to.

Most of our job as teachers is really about showing that sliver of something different to our students.  Who knows, maybe that novel, that field trip, that special guest, that personal interest we took in them, will be the one factor that tips the balance in their lives towards a positive future.  We have no control over what goes on in their homes. But we cannot afford to waste one moment of the time they are in our classrooms with benign busy work.

A few weeks ago, I saw a student who knew me briefly as a substitute teacher in her class when she was in fourth grade.  She was working in a restaurant where I was picking up some food for my family.  Even though she is now a young woman old enough to work, I recognized her and smiled.  She came over to me and said: "I remember you!  You were our substitute teacher and you read us that book, Esperanza Rising."  Children do remember!

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