Planting Seeds

Growing tree22450289.gifOne of the most rewarding things about being a teacher is watching students’ minds encounter new ideas, filter them with what they already know, and come to their own unique conclusions. It’s only the third week of school, and already we’ve had a couple of discussions that planted seeds. They will continue to process everything they read and encounter, and someday later this month or next, or maybe in the spring, we will discuss these topics more fully.

One seed had to do with my dog’s cataract surgery. Someone asked what it was, and I drew a diagram on the board and explained. Then I said, “What’s most amazing is that someone had to think of this. Someone saw a need, thought of fake lenses, and figured out how to make it happen. Solutions like that require being curious about the world around you, caring about making things better, and thinking outside what has already been done.” They were silent for a minute or so. Then they asked questions. We talked about a few other great inventions, and the need to wonder about the world.

Another day, I showed the class American Born Chinese, a graphic novel by Gene Yang. I talked about how it weaved three different characters together into a great story. One of my boys raised his hand and said, “That book’s racist.” No one else had read it. I agreed that it had stereotypes of Chinese people in it, and I showed them a page with a picture of that. I asked, “Are racism and prejudice the same?” We discussed that stereotypes feed prejudice, but racism doesn’t exist unless someone is using it to hurt others–like denying them a job because of race. I asked them to think about whether it made a difference that the author of the book was Chinese. Would it be racist if I, as a white woman, wrote it?

Today we talked about distractions to getting our work done. Someone said they play games online and have trouble pulling away from them. I told them I play four Facebook games myself and have the same problem–I would have Aloha Spirit completed by now if it weren’t for Candy Crush! We talked about how adults have to overcome distractions to get their work done just like kids do. They were very surprised to realize this.

As the year goes on, I’m sure we will have many class discussions. I know that, as they become better at observing the world around them, my students will have valuable input to these discussions. I can hardly wait.



White Water

White Water by Amrita

Round and round and up and down and upside-down we splashed, spinning and tumbling on that hot, summer day in Disney World, Florida.  The sun beat down on us like a hammer, constantly pounding, again and again.  Some people were screaming, some were laughing, some were barely wet, and some were thoroughly soaked.  But I didn’t notice any of those things, for all I could focus on was the enormous drop up ahead, that monstrous waterfall, that terrifying cliff of H2O.  It was not the same for my sister, Anisha.  She had not turned around yet, but there was a daring fire in her eyes.  She was soaked to the bone, but on that day, about the hottest day summer had to offer, any kid would have loved it.

Mom turned pale.  Dad gripped the handlebars tight. Anisha smiled a wide, toothy, daring smile full of courage and bravery.  At first, it felt like I was soaring in the air.  “Oh, how wonderful this is!” I thought, as I hit a Titanic pose.  That marvelous feeling ended abruptly and was replaced with that thrilling, gravity-defying sensation in my stomach as we plummeted down.

SPLASH! we landed.

“Isn’t this awesome!” my sister yelled above the roar of the white water.

“Yeah!” I screamed.

“What?” my sister bellowed.

“This is cool!” I roared back.

SPLOOSH! The raft behind us landed.  Both landings covered me with a mountain of water.

SPLOSH!  The next raft landed, wetting us again and soaking the people in the raft behind us.  The force of the landing pushed us forward at a tremendous speed.  I was now dripping from head to toe, and so was everyone else in the raft.   Mom and Dad laughed.  Anisha giggled.  I smiled.

You see, I don’t laugh or smile like many other people.  Most of the time, I don’t smile just by moving my mouth.  When I smile, there is a twinkle my eyes.  Only those who know me very well can tell when I smile.

When I laugh, it sounds a lot like I am wheezing.  So at the moment, I was twinkling and wheezing and giving high-fives to everyone in the raft.  After all that, we just sat there.  “At last,” I thought, as I knew that the frothing, foaming, and bubbling white water with its huge drop towered behind us.  I heard some people screaming and I heard some laughing.  I felt the sun beating down on me like a hammer, gleaming on everybody’s wet faces, and I saw its golden, rippling, reflection in the calm water, as we lazily drifted toward the end of this fantastic, wet, river rafting ride.