Miguel has an older brother serving in Iraq, and he wanted to know why he has been sent there. That brought up a number of questions that led us into an inquiry of America’s past wars, which had him asking lots more questions and looking into history for answers.
In a daily five-hour class I got a chance to sit down and talk with Miguel, one-on-one, and I must tell you, it was time well spent.
What I saw develop in this young man was a pure pleasure to see. His new interest in the causation of America’s wars and then by extension, all wars, got him interested in a variety of other subjects. While I recognize that the experience may only be a brief interlude in his schooling, it’s also likely to be an experience that he will not forget.
He was momentarily alive to a world of knowledge, and even though it opened only a crack to him, he saw something about himself that he liked. He sat up a little taller in his seat, his eyes were opened a little wider, and there was an expression on his face that spoke volumes. It is an expression that we teachers live for.
At the end of the three weeks, Miguel wrote me a thank-you note that I have read more than a few times. At first it brought tears to my eyes, but then it brought questions to my mind.
How many Miguels pass through our schools each year? How many are forced into a common mold and processed en masse without anyone ever taking the time to learn what makes them tick?
That may be an impossible task with class sizes that promise to grow larger in the coming years, but it is something that we must never lose sight of, all constraints aside.
We who are charged with teaching subject matter need to remember that first and foremost we teach human beings, each uniquely fashioned and each with separate keys that that will unlock their potential. Some of our kids will discover those keys early in their education, while others will need a little more help in finding their way.
My hope is that Miguel got just a glimpse of something that will encourage him to want to see more, and in the process, find his way. I think he has a bright future. I know he’s worth the effort.
DAN KIMBER is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@ sbcglobal.net.