Friday, May 18, 2012

My Turn to Walk

It was one of those late-winter mornings in March 1975 when I made the decision to bail from school once and for all. My return to college failed to reignite the passion for teaching which I thought was inevitable, and if anything, I was at the bottom wrung in life. As I departed Madison traveling north on Hwy 51, I looked back in my rear view mirror to catch a glimpse of the silhouette of our state capitol, always a beautiful sight. I always held on to that image, much like the stain on my basement carpet reminds me of my Old English Sheepdog. In many ways it motivated me in later years, after I sought to pick up the pieces from college life in a time when I was neither ready nor focused on higher education.

After our son graduated from high school in May of 2001, my good friend Jeff suggested that I consider going back to school, even going so far as to say that I would make a good teacher. Little did I know how much his suggestive 'seed' would one day sprout and then grow into a vine strong with passion for the classroom. I learned a lesson from Jeff that will never be forgotten, and over the years I've returned the favor to others as well.

Tomorrow (Saturday, May 19, 2012) is the day I left behind in Madison 37 years ago, and it has special meaning in ways which no one will ever fully understand. It represents an accomplishment that few will appreciate in the magnitude that I do, an epiphany for which I respect the true power of positive encouragement. At 2 PM I'll be assailed by an emotion that has been felt only on our wedding day and the birth of Jacob. Having friends and family members on hand to witness this event is also very special, but I also acknowledge the spirit of Mom and Dad nudging me on in the background. My departure from Madison in 1975 always left them questioning what 'could have been', and over the years each reminded me that there was always time in my life to go back to college. Again, another one of those positive cues about hanging on to a dream.

Tomorrow I reach the mountain top I never thought I would see, but the journey is only just beginning. I will finally purge that ever-shrinking black and white image of our state capitol from my mind once and for all, replacing it with a colored illustration of pomp and circumstance. My ill-fated lesson from 37 years ago has finally been stacked in the completed pile, graded and commented on by the teacher I've long desired to be. Thank-you Jeff, for sharing that vision. And thank-you Mom and Dad, for always prodding me along.

God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The 'Ah-ha' Moment in Teaching

There are moments in one’s life when you get the infamous “ah-ha” moment, and as an educator it is all the more special an occurrence when it happens in the classroom. This past week I witnessed that moment with three ESL students during a first-hour class. We were working on an exercise that involved the use of adverbs which determine frequency (never, seldom, sometimes, usually, and always), and Diego knew the concept hands-down. I sensed that Cesar and Eduardo were struggling and needed some individual attention, but I wasn’t able to attend to both at the same time.

I turned to Diego and asked him to explain directions in detail to Cesar without giving him the answers, then I focused my attention on Eduardo to do the same. As I was working with Eduardo, I looked up and glanced at Diego to note his progress with Cesar. It was an incredible sight to see him in a teaching role, listening to him give careful instructions about the concept. HE GOT IT! Never before had I experienced such a feeling of satisfaction and gratification in teaching.

And better yet, later in the class I was faced with yet another situation, this one dealing with mealtime habits and writing questions about breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This time is was Cesar who understood, and the other two students who needed some attention. Just as I had done with Diego, I asked Cesar to work one-on-one with Eduardo so I could help Diego. Again, the student became teacher for five minutes and he did a great job explaining he exercise. When class ended I wanted to run outside and shout out something good for the rest of the world to hear, but time did not allow that to happen. It was THE “ah-ha” moment I was looking for in my Student Teaching, and one which I will never forget. Some student teachers hear about epochs such as these, but I actually was able to experience one first-hand.