Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Things You Learn

Today in one of my classes the kids had an assignment to speak for two minutes in Spanish about one of their most memorable days, without using any notes or prompts. Their grammar and pronunciation is graded as well as the content and the development of their topic. Usually this assignment causes quite a bit of consternation and nerves, and today was no exception. However, this year I have a group of kids who, for the most part, really like to talk and share. They are all good friends with each other and feel little to no hesitation talking about themselves and their lives. I am really enjoying them and we have had some amazing talks about everything from swine flu to whether it is possible to love someone too much, or even debating immigration policy in the United States. I look forward to that class every day.

Anyway, back to the assignment. When you teach school you do get to know the kids pretty well, but you do only have them for 50 minutes a day, and there is a lot that goes on in their lives that you are not a part of (and that is generally a good thing!) So today I learned some things about my students that really expanded my vision of who they are as people, and not just as students.

1. One student talked about going to the baseball game where the Boston Red Sox finally won the World Series after 86 years. He talked about sitting and cheering with his dad and how everyone went out into the streets afterwards and were hugging and kissing each other. We asked if he kissed anyone and he laughed and said "posiblemente". 

2. Another student talked about visiting Israel and climbing the plateau to visit Masada. She talked about how much it meant to her to be in Israel and to explore her Jewish heritage. She mentioned how difficult the climb was and what a spectacular view it was from the top and how it was an experience that would affect her whole life.

3. One girl shared her experience of writing and directing a Christmas Eve play for her church and how it was so hard for her because she is not a playwright or a director and how she did not have a lot of support. She wanted to do something nice for the children of the congregation and so she took the initiative to write and put on this play, which was very well received and will be repeated this year.

4. Another of my students is a very gifted musician and he talked about giving his first full piano concert at the Blithewold mansion in Bristol. He talked about how nervous he was and shared the worst thing that happened that night--a piano duet in which his partner turned two pages of the score at once and so they had a little bit of a crash and burn. It was such a success, however, that he has done repeat concerts every subsequent year.

5. A girl talked about a time when she was younger when she and her mother and three brothers left Rhode Island to go on vacation to Florida. She knew something was off about it and sure enough they stayed in Florida for two years. She talked about living in a one-bedroom apartment with her three brothers and mom because living in Rhode Island was too expensive. She talked about how she did not feel the economic difference and never thought twice about wearing the same clothes over and over again. The climate in Florida was not good for her health, though, and eventually things improved enough so that they could rejoin her dad in Rhode Island. I think this was something that a lot of people didn't know about her.

These are just a few of the experiences I heard about today. Now, I can complain a lot about teaching and sometimes I think I chose a very difficult career path. And some days I feel like I should have gone into a field of work that doesn't take over your life so totally. But on days like today I look at who these young people are and who they are becoming and I am, frankly, enchanted.