Thursday, April 23, 2015

The best teachers also learn from their students

I remember a story about a man named Adam Braun, who met a destitute child in India and asked the boy what he wanted more than anything in the world.

His answer: A pencil.

A pencil. I have pencils all over the house, a thousand pencils and pens, most of them bearing the names of insurance brokers or bail bondsmen.  Yes, I am a hoarder of this sort of thing.  A bucket of free pencils at the State Fair will find me reaching in every time for a #2.

No, I didn't package up some of my extras and send them to India, but I did make a donation of another sort.  How can we not, when we see other human beings whose lot it was not to be born here in the lap of human luxury amidst an abundance of every single thing a human could want?

I thought of that situation when I saw this, about Kyle Schwartz, a third-grade teacher from Colorado who came up with a lesson plan called "I Wish My Teacher Knew."

The vast majority of the kids at Doull Elementary get free and reduced lunches.  This is not the prosperity that most of us have known, and it was a brave move to ask a deprived child to share his or her deepest secret, because there's a real chance of opening the bitterness locker in doing so.

"As a new teacher, I struggled to understand the reality of my students' lives and how to best support them. I just felt like there was something I didn't know about my students," Ms Schwartz says.

And the sadness piled up on her desk.

"I wish my teacher knew I don't have pencils at home to do my homework."

How many teachers have hollered at how many students for not doing how much homework, little knowing that the kid spent the previous evening cowering behind a sofa because dad was drunk and he and mom were in a three-hour fistfight?

How many kids can't do their homework, and thereby set the stage for a successful life, due to lack of basic study supplies...a desk, computer access, a lamp, a damn pencil?

There is a happy side.  Ms Schwartz reported that a child who said she had no friends and no one to play with and read that out loud found that a group of kids sought her out on the playground later.

Kyle Schwartz

By sharing our needs and feelings, we can reach out, and sometimes, have them met.

I think we can all take this a step further and just ask our friends, our coworkers, our family members if there is anything they want to share.

We might be surprised at how simple it is to help!

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