There are some days when you remember why you teach. Today, was that day.
I had my students recall, well basically write a list of the things they cherished. It went so well, that looking back, I could almost cry. I told them to write a list of three to five things that they valued. It went so well. Did I tell you that already? The first breakthrough didn't come in my second period advanced class. No, it came in third period with my bugger heads. Oh, boy, I should not have said that but it is true. They talk out of turn all the time saying, "Look at me! Look at me!" Yet today, for some reason they were listening. I set guidelines. If they couldn't say anything nice, not to say anything. I started getting the usual iPods, PS3s, their pets, and Gia said, "guinea pigs." and I asked her about her guinea pigs. You see my daughter Rosangela, had once had a guinea big named Prince and well he lived what I thought was a long time and often getting out of his cage and going on adventures. Rosita would even would let him roam around her shirt. She loved Prince and I guess telling Gia about that encouraged her. Gia's, guinea pigs had lived for four years. So I told her she must have taken real good care of them. More kids shared from their list and then quiet Gia raised her hand again. I almost didn't call on her again but since she doesn't talk often I thought what the heck.
That is when it happened. She voiced, "I value my dad. He is the one person who loves me unconditionally. After I lost my mother, he is the only person I know that loves me without reservation." She added," in this day and age when kids don't value their parents, I love my dad!" She just let them have it. Then she just talked a little bit more and everyone was glued to their seats. Gia the soft spoken one said the truth! I thanked her for enriching our class. I told her that she had just brought value to our class. Then the kids clapped. That was third period.
Fourth, fifth, sixth periods, were more of the same. Not as dramatic, but by then I had figured out that what they had put on their lists was reflective of who they were as people and that even if they had not realized it, all the objects they named were either connected to someone they loved or a personality trait or talent they held dear. Some loved their sheet music, others cherished, a kitchen or a house because of the safety, warmth, food or security they received there. There was Klaryssa who loved her father's big ole Ford truck. She said he had had it as long as she had been alive and that they had gone on adventures and mud riding in it. It was her connection to her dad. She talked around it but suddenly, she knew why she loved the truck.
We live in metaphors.
Then, came seventh period made up of my disjointed come lately advanced students. One student mentioned his iPod, another his house, while a lot of them cherished internet service and realized that it was their connection to their social world. We talked about how we were meant to be closely knit together.
Then came Yasmine. She said that she loved a gold chain, and I said, "Oh, a family heirloom," and she said no.
"No, not this chain." She added, "This chain came to me from my mother as she was dying and handed to me. It is the only thing I have left from my mother. " It meant the world to her.
I can't explain it. We sometimes have great days. I have taught this same lesson before but today. What did I do differently? I let them talk and I really listened.
My goodness. What did this mean for my class? No more shallowness that is for sure. The drapes have been drawn back, the light has come in, and for the first time in a long time, my students found their voices. Only because I asked them about what they treasured and I listened.
I am so glad I did.