powerful moments in education
Do you ever think of the worlds you once knew but no longer exist?
This concept has been a curious one to me for awhile. In the fall of 1999, I studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador at La Universidad San Fransisco de Quito through the International Partnership for Service Learning. My days involved being awoken in Spanish by the empleada, drinking instant cafe with bread, and grabbing a banana and freshly made juice for the road. Catching buses. Meeting American and Ecuadorian friends. Pretending to understand class discussions.
But when I anxiously returned for a visit the following New Years, the world I once knew was no longer there. It didn’t exist. “Nunca sera igual.” (It will never be the same) asserted one of my host brothers as my final days as a member of the family loomed. I was not mature enough at the age of 20 to understand what this meant. I mean, I experienced the disappearing world upon graduation from college, but I suppose I wasn’t really paying attention. The world I once knew, sounds I once heard, phone numbers I once called- all disconnected.
In the close of a 2 year cycle, I approach the inevitable. My 4th graders become 5th graders. They go upstairs. The world I once knew dissolves with puberty. As a looping teacher, I experience this every 2 years. Some years I am ready to move on- actually, in my memory EVERY other year I have been ready- and so have they- to move on. There is something about this group that is exceptionally difficult. We have created, written, observed, sugared, talked, laughed, problem-solved, and argued.
Maybe it is because they are a mere 13 in total. Maybe it is because they were craving knowledge, literacy, and all types of skill from day one. Maybe it is because I have honed my craft as a teacher with them as my co-conspirators. What I do know, however, is that from the time they enter from the time they leave, I feel productive and creative and their actions show clearly that they understand that their job is to be learners. To be compassionate. To ask questions. To be human. To be 10.
I don’t really know how I did it, but they are certainly down-to-earth products of their parents, thankfully. And I suppose I am writing this now to begin to figure that out, because in a short few months, I will do it all over again. A leader and colleague told me today that “new students should now be lucky to be in your class” and while this may be true, it’s like saying my recently lost pet will never return and a new animal will steal my heart. There is just a passion, a thirst, a creativity and a spark that is my current clan…and I know that it will dissolve in a few short weeks.
Professionally, I can step back, however, and remember that it is not about me. It is not about me and my 2 year learning relationship with the best class I have ever had. It is about these 13 students. It is about the skills, interest, compassion, laughter, questions, projects, discussions, and camaraderie that DID exist amongst THEM. This will follow them through the tough years to come.
Perhaps it does not dissolve, but rather sprouts. And I suppose I am one of the roots.