Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Teaching Gift


I’ve been humbled, flabbergasted, delighted, amazed, a bit mortified, blown away and left speechless.

First: I love teaching. I love teaching histry. I love watching students get riled up when we talk about the grievances in the Declaration of Independence and the Quartering Act (easy for teenagers to get when strangers invade their space). I love painting the picture of our great American hero Benedict Arnold and watch them fume when he turns his back on all he swore with all fidelity to protect. (I think the Revolution and then the Constitution are my favorite things to teach).

Each year, students come to me and I work as hard as I can to turn them on to history. To help them become better writers, researchers, citizens. 

It’s tough, often exhausting work. With all the discussion on the news about the terrible state of education, it’s possible to ask—is it worth it—do I make any kind of a difference?

Well: This week, four students gave me a gift, I will never forget.

I often use images to bring deeper understanding to my students. We will analyze and interpret these images to learn more of the period and to gain insight to circumstances. Sometimes, it’s just to make things more accessible to my 8th graders and to keep it interesting.

We talked about Valley Forge last week and I showed my students the Friberg painting of George Washington at Valley Forge. My students knew how much I love that painting.

This week, four students had me come into my classroom before school. I was ordered to close my eyes, walk in further under their direction and then open my eyes.  I was expecting some funny song or something—they were so wriggly and obviously pleased with themselves. It’s the holidays and a little sweet something wouldn’t have surprised me.

When I opened my eyes those four 13 year old young men stood holding a beautifully framed copy of that very painting with a gorgeous bow on it! Tears filled my eyes and I felt like the floor was going to open up and swallow me whole.

I shudder to think how much they must have spent on it.

The sensitivity and overwhelming generosity of these young men is incredible.

Am I making a difference? Is all the effort worth it?

I think, for a very long time, I need to not ask myself that. When in doubt, all I need to do is look to the back of my classroom and try not to choke up.
Thank you, you sweet, amazing, surprising, shocking, funny, thoughtful guys.
PS...I hope you studied for the American Revolution Test. It's a bear.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing up this special experience. You do indeed touch the hearts of those "wriggly" 8th graders. This is a more concrete evidence of their love for you and what you are teaching them. But, no doubt there are many others who feel the same way but lack the resources and/or ingenuity to express it in such a splendid way. Never doubt the effectiveness of your teaching this age-group which is, by most accounts, difficult to reach. Keep it up! Love, Your Mom

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