Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More Than Curriculum

Today I witnessed a moment at my school, one of those moments that words can't really explain or capture how truly monumental it was.  A moment that will transcend time and forever change life experiences at school and "the path" for one Grade 7 student in particular.

As teachers, we know we have to deliver the curriculum, provide engaging lessons, have effective assessment strategies, and get report card marks in on time.  But what we don't HAVE to do is be willing to reach out, take a stand or be a voice for a student.  That kind of thing comes from within and from what kind of person you are.

In class, the Grade 7 students created and handed in Zines (A written text with various text features, to portray a message to readers - Note: Zine is the suffix of Magazine from which it originates) and while I was teaching, my Teacher Associate @superock66 decided to peruse through them.  (I guess because they peaked his interest, he knew I would be marking them :) ) Upon doing so, he came across one student's, whom in their writing, referred to themselves as "The Ugly Duckling" as well as many other unfavourable adjectives such as: "alone,""terrible," and "miserable" and indicating that they felt they couldn't "be themselves" and that "fitting in was impossible".

Upon reading this, Steve went and talked privately with the student while I was teaching and asked her if this was how she was really feeling or if she had just written it for the assignment.  The student, without reservation, said it was exactly how she was feeling.  Steve then asked if she wanted him to talk to the class while she was present.  Again, she responded yes she want him to do that and she want to be there, because "She was brave".

At the end of my lesson, Steve read the text to class and and asked them to write down how it made them feel.  The students began to frantically write and some of them ended up with almost a full page.  The students were then asked if they wanted to share what they wrote with the rest of the class.  One boy raised his hand and indicated that he felt bad for the author but felt he also understood because sometimes he feels the same way for being shorter than everyone else.  Other students indicated in their writing that they felt bad because they felt they contributed to the author feeling the way she did.

This moment was about the kids in the class thinking and being compassionate about others as well as making them accountable for their thoughts and actions towards others.  It also gave ALL the students in the class a voice, as I am sure at one time or another, each of them have felt the exact same way as the author.

Afterwards, the author spoke out to the class and indicated to everyone that even small gestures to include her in what they were doing would help.  It was amazing, the class was silent, and then some of the students gave her their sheets of paper where they wrote about how they felt.

This was an amazing teachable moment that meant more than what can be covered by curriculum expectations.  This was a moment that helped to shape caring, compassionate, understanding individuals as well as create a more positive and effective school experience for one student in particular.  

I don't think Steve realized at the time, (or maybe he did) the (potential) affects of what he did.  You hear people talking in their adult life about how that one teacher stood out for them in school.  How that one teacher REALLY made a difference in their life and if it wasn't for them, they wouldn't be who they are today.

I am sure we all have those memories and today, for this Grade 7 student, Steve was that teacher....

I am just so glad I was in the room to see it happen.

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