Monday, August 08, 2005

The things we teach in school

Taking off on Craig Fisher's post about school beginning and the value of teachers, I am posting the sermon, um, lecture I always gave to my students on the last day of children's literature class. Most of the students in the class were headed toward teaching.

We teach math so students can function in the real world and creative thinking so they can function in a world to come with things not yet thought of.

We teach four-year-olds who have never seen an indoor bathroom how to hit, how to flush, and to put the lid down.

We teach the 16-year-old girl, who is pregnant and unmarried, the skills she will need to survive as a single parent, and we provide day care for her child when it is born so she can stay in school and succeed.

We provide counseling and non-judgemental guidance for the students who have AIDS.

We bring kids together in teams, whether they be debate teams, football teams or ag judging teams, and we teach them the art of give and take and loyalty and cooperation which will ultimately be used in marriages, in court rooms and in churches.

We know that every child who comes to us is at risk whether he or she is 4 or 18. We teach them that school is a safe place where they can come from 8-4 every day: Where adults are warm and caring, where laughter is pure and clean, where videos and dvds are not rated X and books and magazines do not have obscene pictures. School is often the best place some kids have.

We teach autistic David the pleasure of communicating in sentences over four words long.

We teach music with its mystical power to enrich the lives of children who know more about video games than Beethoven and more about super heroes than Mozart.

The things we teach in school include practical things like the alphabet, the multiplication tables and grammar, but also include things like : keep your fingers out of your food; one match will destroy a forest; and just say no to strangers and drugs. We teach safety like the third grade teacher who took her class to Safety City last year, who lost control of her own little car, ran over a telephone pole and had to miss several days of school.

We teach creative writing so students can learn that their own words count,and that this is an avenue of exploration and imagination which is theirs at the drop of a pen anywhere, any time, any place. With this gift, thay can always say this is my story, my life, my truth.

We provide gifted and talented classes and laureate classes for students like middle-schooler Jason who has spent much of his school life living in a car on the streets of Abilene. He knows his life can change because he is being taught the skills to make it happen.

We teachers on all levels teach truth, understanding and knowledge in a thousand ways everyday in planned and unplanned lessons and conversations, in the way we talk, and the way we treat students and the way we persuade them to interact with each other.

We have put snags in the rivers of children passing by and over the years have redirected their lives.

We celebrate small victories and marvel at changes--we cry when we see children
who come to school in shorts on 20 degree weather days, when a boy comes back to school the next day after his brother dies from a drug overdose, when children come to us with bruises and cuts, when a 6th grade boy leaves the campus in handcuffs because has threatened the life of his teacher.

We teach social studies so we can come to know ourselves and to know each other and to value the worth of every human being.

We teach the lives of great men who confronted povery and won like Abraham Lincoln and Colin Powell.

We teach the lives of great women like Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks who courageously fought the unjust society in which they lived.

We teach physical education and the enjoyment of the human body to children who spend more hours in front of a TV set than they do playing outside.

We teach with joy and optimism everyday so that our children will learn joy and optimism in this often fatalistic world. Teachers are often the only sentries we have against hopelessness.

We teach with energy and enthusiasm and enormous respect for the learner, the science, the literature, and the math that we love so much.

We tell and read stories to students who are falling apart because we believe with Barry Lopez that one should never underestimate the power of a story of repair a spirit.

We teach very carefully the essential elements, cooperative learning, shared reading, and whole language. We get kids ready for TEKS and a thousand other tests.

We dig trenches, climb mountains, and in between we try to help our students know that we are all human, tha it is ok to cry, and ok to dream and that each of us has a special gift and a special place in this world to serve.

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