Monday, November 08, 2010

The Peach

I was just talking to another teacher of gifted and talented (GT) last week about how important it is for us, as teachers, to have a good relationship with our students.  The GT teacher/student relationship is a bit different than that of the average student because of the nature of the GT kid.  While they have close to an adult intellect, they are still kids with kid feelings and vulnerabilities, and they need someone who can reach both of those levels within the classroom.  They need the challenging subject matter, they need to have fun, and they also need to be able to act their age.

Then today, I get an email from a former student who is now an adult, working in the field of sports medicine.  Seems she was going through her mom's garage, cleaning out her things, and found a box of assignments from our class.   What I hear consistently from those kids from that class is how fun our Greek unit was.  They learned so much about Greek city-states, the Peloponnesian war, mythology, etc.  But they had fun doing it. More than a few told me their World History courses in college were a breeze because of that class. But I can't take credit.  I just presented the material.  It was them and what they did with the material that made the difference.  However, I will take credit for allowing them to be smart, but be 7th graders.  It's what mattered more.

See, there was more to that class than just that Greek unit.  We built a safe environment in that class, one that allowed them to be who they were.  I'll give an example:  let's call it the "Peach."  We were doing a study of poetry, and one of my students hated the subject.  After much prodding, and showing her how simple poetry was by reading Carl Sanburg's "the Fog", this reluctant poet got up in front of the class and quoted her own poem, "The Peach."  I don't remember the poem really, but I do remember it was a major catchphrase in our class from that point forward.  She reminded me today that I wrote on her report card that she was "a peach" in class.

That's the stuff they remember, and that's the stuff that helps them remember what they learned.  It's also the stuff that keeps me going back, year after year.  These are people in whom we're investing, with dreams and hopes, with fears and anxieties, and sometimes problems we'll never know.  But for those moments in our class, they are with someone who cares about them and accepts them for who they are and where they are at the moment, and that makes a difference.

All of this from a report card "peach" comment.  It's that simple.  I think I'm going to buy a poster of a peach and keep it in my class.  Just to remind me to keep it challenging.  And fun.

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