(originally posted 4/29/10)
At one point I considered naming this website “Wide Open Windows”. I love the idea of flinging the windows open and changing the view, the perspective, the very air inside of a room with one movement. In truth, there are many little steps that take place before windows, or doors, open….and we are often not aware of them at all. So, when the light and air come peeking, or rushing, in it truly takes us by surprise…..and oh did I see that happen this week!!
Earlier this week I wrote a blog about getting past adolescent armor. Here is a piece from it:
“I never really know what will be the key that opens a student up. Sometimes it is something that we do in class: a story, a poem, a movie, a song, a current event. Other times it is casual observance of a tshirt design, a new pair of shoes, a sketch on the front of a book cover. Occasionally it is an item in my classroom…this year the fans that I brought back from Spain have opened up many doors of conversation. Rarely, if ever, am I the one that opens the door. It is almost always the student who shows me, if only for a tiny instant, a glimpse beyond the armor. ”
Sure enough, since I wrote that two different students reached out and turned the handle on the door….even if just a bit. One of them is a young man who has planned all year to drop out at age 16. Unfortunately, he doesn’t turn 16 this year. So, for him, this year has been one long vacuum. He is one of those students who will literally just sit….and do absolutely nothing. His teachers, parents and counselors have been trying to sell him the merits of at least working for a GED….but he hasn’t shown much interest…only disdain. In Spanish 1 we have been watching Selena and for one period we did a webquest about the singer. I was surprised to see that he had logged in to a website and was reading. Halfway through the period he starts waving his hand wildly and called me over. “Hey Profe!” This in itself is unusual. :o) “Did you know that Selena got a GED diploma? That’s cool. There she was, getting rich and famous and all and she still decided to do it.” Oh yes, very cool.
The second student shouldn’t really be in my Spanish 1 class. He was only in the 8th grade program for a few months before he wa pulled out to prepare for the grade 8 ELA tests….so….he had about 10 weeks of Spanish while the rest of my students had 40 weeks before they started class with me this year. One of his best friends in class is another student like the one I described above. The other left the district about two months ago. This kid tries very hard to be invisible in my room. He doesn’t offer eyes to teach to, conversation to interact with or even a response some days. He also called me over to show me something during the webquest, however, it was not anything on the monitor. He pulled the barrel of a paintball gun out of his backpack. (It’s a plastic tube, but I have two paintball-playing sons so I recognized it) He wanted to show me how he had “painted” the piece with black and green Sharpies to make it look camouflaged. We chatted about paintball for a minute, then he got to work on the webquest.
Two students who prefer not to engage. Two students who try hard not to get involved. Two students offering me a connection. A few years ago I would have dismissed those moments as meaningless. A few years ago I didn’t understand the amount of work and effort (on their part) that it took to get to that tiny first step. A few years ago I had no idea of the power of an interaction initiated by a student. A few years ago I thought it was attitude rather than armor. A few years ago I would have missed two opportunities. Open doors. Open windows. I’ll take them. I’m glad that I had written about them earlier this week, or I might have missed these two moments.
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