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.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lessons I Have Learned From My Children

Without a doubt the event that changed my life profoundly was the birth of my children.  From the moment my first child was born, I have not made a decision or taken a path without first considering how they would be affected.  Even my perspective of the world and its events is now shaped by the emotions I feel for my two daughters and two sons.  However, the significance of their birth has been in teaching me lessons that I would not have otherwise learned.  Here are three of the things I have learned from my children:

1.  Never give up on anyone.  When my children were very small, I thought they would never wear shoes or eat anything other than plain rice or pasta.  I thought they would never go to bed by themselves.  I thought my children would never learn to get along and enjoy each other's company.  There have been moments when I thought that we would never get past a certain struggle.  But as the years have gone by and they have grown and matured, I realize how many of those struggles no longer exist.  Time, patience and unconditional love helped them master the lessons of childhood.  What I have learned from all this has been that we are all struggling with one thing or another at different stages of our lives and that time, patience and unconditional love will also get us through the tough times and help us master the lessons of life in general.

2.  Don't put things off for later that can be done now.  One spring my then four year old and I were fascinated by the beauty and variety of the Texas Wildflowers growing alongside the roads near our house.  One day, exactly at noon time, my daughter asked me to go out and pick some flowers.  I was not too excited about walking out in the noonday heat and suggested that we do it later in the day.  Of course, she had to go out at that exact moment and being a very persistent child, she convinced me.  We gathered about eight or ten different kinds of flowers a few blocks from our house and returned home happy and satisfied.  Later that afternoon when we drove by the same street, I noticed that the city maintenance workers had mowed down the field of flowers alongside the road.  Had I not listened to my daughter's instinct at that moment, we would have lost our chance to get to know those flowers and share a very special moment with each other.  That episode prompted me to apply to graduate school that same week and pursue my dream of becoming a teacher; something I had been putting off for fifteen years.

3.  You are not completely human until you have cared for an animal.  I grew up in a family and in a culture that did not really encourage direct love for or contact with animals.  I never had a pet and well into adulthood was terrified of any kind of animal.  When I saw how my children, even as babies, were attracted to all living creatures, I tried my best not to transmit to them my fear and dislike of animals.  Some years ago, as a last resort in my fight against mice that were coming into our house, I accepted to take two orphaned kittens and brought them home to my children as a surprise.  In fact, I was the one who was surprised at the degree of affection and concern that I felt for those animals.  It was as if my heart had expanded and I had learned to give in a new way.

I highlight these three lessons not because they are the only ones, but because they have had implications beyond my relationship with my children.  As a teacher, I realize the importance of never giving up on my students and knowing that although they may be struggling now, with support and genuine love, they can overcome and succeed.  I have come to believe that we have almost a duty to take concrete steps towards converting our dreams and ideals into reality.  And, I also have found that the natural world and all its creatures are there to teach us lessons of love, persistence and balance.