Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Moments of grace

Time doesn't move at an even pace. Sometimes it seems to halt a bit, allowing us to watch what's happening more closely.

In one of my Spanish classes, students are reading a story called, "El vendedor de globos." They need to work together to create a picture sequence of the story's main events.

Our rule in class is "no English" so it's fun to see how the kids negotiate meaning to get the job done.

I typically bounce from group to group to offer encouragement and information, but today, I see that they are fine on their own for a while so I sit down and watch them interact.

Everyone is speaking in Spanish: The comment about the state soccer game after school, the question about information from page four, paragraph two, the request for a pencil - all in Spanish.

"Globos, muchos globos de muchos colores!" "Lots of colorful balloons," says one girl, grabbing a bunch of markers. "I'll do it!"

They are busy. The girl in the Highlands t-shirt is checking meaning and the boy wearing shorts in November is at the dictionary. "Good," I think, "use the tools we have in the room."

They forget I am here when they get involved in the task.

"Did the man die in the end?" says a lanky kid with a mop of blond curls to his partner. "I think he dies because the white balloon floats up. It's like his spirit floating up." The other kid shrugs and nods while sketching what he is saying. He is translating the Spanish words into pictures.

Good stuff.

But that's not the best part. What I like about today is watching my students interact. They don't fully know how wonderful they are. They are living in this classroom, on the sports field or stage. They write poems or make movies, participate in clubs, dance, work a part time job. They go home to a nice dinner in the evening. Their lives are busy, but they have big dreams. Everything is possible and the future is a vast expanse.

And I have a ringside seat.

I watch a new language bloom in their lives. I get the first surprised look when they understand something in Spanish that they once thought was impossible. I see them become super heroes of culture, masters of communication, intrepid ambassadors who understand how connecting communities is our most important modern work.

Next to watching your own child take its first steps, there isn't a more privileged job to have.

It takes a lot of trust in both directions. I know that they will learn. What they don't get today, will come tomorrow as long as we keep giving them tools, enrichment and strategies. It will definitely happen.

They trust me to know how to lead them to knowledge, culture and new words to speak their feelings and thoughts in Spanish.

The class leaves and I stay a while after school, to read journals. Grades are due in a couple of days so we are down to the wire.

I read about six journals when I get to Carla's: "I like learning so peacefully and being happy in this class."

Sounds like a good place for me to end my day. I close the black and white composition notebook and run my fingers over the marble design before I put it in the bin.

I shut the door to my classroom and go to my car, parked at the far end of the lot. It's already dark outside and the parking lot lights are on. I hear the leaves rustle under my feet.

Time starts to speed up as I think about sizzling some salmon and tossing a salad at home for my family. Switching gears.

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