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.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Seeing With Magic Eyes

When my kids were younger and we scoured the shelves of our public library for new and interesting books more often, we came across a series called Magic Eyes.  Each page was a picture that looked like a colorful and abstract tessellation.  But if you trained your eyes to focus just right, a three dimensional image would "magically" pop out.  My mother was the best at it.  She would hold the book in front of her and cry "Wow!"  and "Wooh!", which would drive my daughter crazy because she couldn't see the hidden pictures.  I had to work at it, but when I figured out how to look in order to see the magic, it became easy to spot the hidden picture every time.

When I read Katherine Bomer's book Hidden Gems, I realized that seeing the brilliance in student writing also required "magic eyes".  First you have to believe that there is something there worth seeing.  You have to look at every piece of writing believing that there is a gem, a strength in there somewhere.  Then you have to train your eyes to look differently.  One trick I use to look at the Magic Eye books is I try to cross my eyes, which at first blurs everything and then suddenly I see the three dimensional image.  I have trained my eyes to look beyond the handwriting, the spelling, the lack of conventions in student writing.  That has helped me discover some fantastic writers in classrooms.

Be The One . . .

Last night my mother shared with me that her only regret in life is not having gotten a college degree.  Back in 1960 Iran, she had won a spot in the very competitive higher education system's lottery and was studying social work when she met my father and married.  No one, not even my progressively minded father, questioned her choice to leave her studies for a life dedicated to her husband and children.  No one pointed out to her that she could finish her studies and then start her family, or that she could finish her studies, stay home with her children when they were young and then pursue a career, as I have done.

Our role as teachers is changing drastically and dramatically.  We are no longer needed to provide knowledge to our students but to show them how to use that knowledge.  We are no longer the repository of all answers but the source of good and hard questions that push our students to think critically.  And most of all we are the ones who are responsible for recognizing the potential in each and every child and being the one who questions their choices to drop out or to give up.