Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Best and Brightest

I spent half the day at a middle school in SE Portland yesterday. That should be required for anybody elected to public office. It should be required for anybody who would write anything about education reform. It should be required for all taxpayers, especially those with no children and those who will never have children.
This is what I saw. I went to observe a beginning teacher whose mentor I have become. I saw her energy and her patience. I saw her overcrowded classes. Imaging being the only one in the room with 35 6 and 7th graders. They move and dart at such a pace that one pair of eyes can't even begin to keep up. They clap their hands, they are eager...for most anything. (That is good) They push and shove each other. They chew gum when they shouldn't. They pull hoodies over their heads when they shouldn't. They sneak food. (all students do this) They need to go to the bathroom, need to get a drink of water, need to express every thought, every sudden nuance, every whim and every constantly changing mood.
This was the first real diverse classroom in Portland I've seen. These kids were Brown. They were Asian and Latino. They were African-American and Native American. They were maybe 20% white. Did I mention that they were eager.
My mentee is a drama teacher. She's been hired to not only teach drama to 6-9th graders, but also to initiate the first drama program at her school. Even with so much of it in their lives, these kids are not clear on the concept. But they have a warehouse of natural ability. So I shall do my best to provide insight and guidance for this budding teacher-hero. Perhaps I will even do a little one on one with a few of her students. Maybe a special ed. student or an English language learner. Maybe a student with a pronounced learning disability or one diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. Even a small group of kids who don't get enough attention because she's busy dealing with all the others who drain her finite energy and resources.
I will give her my best because she is giving them hers.

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