Sunday, February 27, 2011

Simple


On a dark, sub-freezing morning last week, I drove out to Gresham High School. Portland's little flirtation with snow was all but over, but there were some patches of black ice that could ruin your day in a hurry.
I like the drive out there because it's due east from where I live and when I get about half of the 10 miles down the road, I often get a nice view of Mt. Hood.
I allowed a bit more time on this day just in case the traffic was thicker because of the dicey streets. Black ice can be a killer because, unlike snow or rain, it's largely invisible. This morning was darker than usual, but when I neared my destination, a shadowy figure loomed up ahead just to my right. The mountain, in all it's stunning glory appeared more a black shade someone had pulled down to keep out the cold. Still the shape was discernible. Then a remarkable thing. The sun, milky and distant peaked over the mountain's shoulder. There they were, vaguely visible but definitely paired up for anybody to see.
The image reminded me how simple some things can be in all their complexity. The day that followed extended this metaphor.
Because the previous day was a snow day, attendance was lighter than usual for a Friday. The student teacher, whose Global Studies class I was observing, was wondering what to do with his lesson plan if some key students were missing. When a substitute failed to appear on time, the CT (Cooperating Teacher, in whose classroom we were) invited those students to come across the hall until someone arrived. So there we were, 2 classes and 3 teachers and the window of opportunity that any true teaching moment affords. Jack, the student teacher, made a few adjustments an both classes participated in a group activity/discussion based on the characteristics of social movements that lead to revolution. From Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, to what is currently going on in Wisconsin with the battle for collective bargaining rights, to the Civil Rights movement, to Gandhi, MLK, and the anti-war movement of the 1960s-70s, the kids considered it all. Probably one of the best discussions any high school class could have. What started out as a busted up day turned into arguably one of the best of the school year. It often goes like that.
On my return trip I realized two things. Like that image of the mountain and the sun, democracy in the Middle East is on the rise and here at home, we're going the other direction. All those hard fought worker's rights are being threatened by dark forces who do not value human rights over cold, corporate, cash.

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