Dream Necklaces (repost from 2012)

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5 thoughts on “Dream Necklaces (repost from 2012)”

  1. Thanks Ben. What you say is true, I used to think I could hit the same home runs with one class as I had with one the year before, but it wasn’t the case. Every time I tried this it just fell flat. Now instead of trying to replicate my jokes and stories that worked the previous year, I’m trying to listen better to the students sitting in front of me for who they are.

    Another thing I noticed this year with a class I had last year that was really tough, is that this year they have blossomed beyond what I ever would have expected, especially if you asked me last year. (As the only Latin teacher in our school, I get the same kids each year, so I’ve become aware of this.) One of my Latin 1 classes last year was very difficult, especially just unenthusiastic and dead. There were a few that were alive that first year, but their life was usually squelched by the majority of more cool, aloof and un-participatory kids. But this year, I don’t know what happened, but it’s like the seeds which were planted last year have finally sprouted after much, much water, sun and weeding. This class now is a highlight of my day, and some students that used to seem dead have come out of their shells. I can just see it on their faces, they smile more, let me communicate more, they trust me more and the CI learning process more. It took a WHILE, but it finally happened for this class. A few kids are still “too cool,” but they are now in the minority and go along with the general happiness of the class.

    So my point with that was, I realize now that each class (and student) is a work of art that is still subject to, and will continue to change as they continue the conversation into the next years. For me this is exciting and hopeful as I see the long-term effects of CI learning.

  2. …each class (and student) is a work of art….

    This is it. And we just don’t go up to a work of art in a museum and then walk away a few seconds later. Rather, we approach it in this sense:

    Petit Prince: Qu’est-ce que signifie “apprivoiser”?

    Fox: -C’est une chose trop oubliée, dit le renard. Ca signifie “Créer des liens…”

    Petit Prince: -Créer des liens?

    Fox: -Bien sûr, dit le renard. Tu n’es encore pour moi qu’un petit garçon tout semblable à cent mille petits garçons. Et je n’ai pas besoin de toi. Et tu n’a pas besoin de moi non plus. Je ne suis pour toi qu’un renard semblable à cent mille renards. Mais, si tu m’apprivoises, nous aurons besoin l’un de l’autre. Tu seras pour moi unique au monde. Je serai pour toi unique au monde…

    Little Prince: What does “to tame” mean?

    Fox: It’s something all too forgotten, said the fox. It means “to create links…”

    Little Prince: -To create links?

    Fox: Exactly, said the fox. Right now you are to me nothing but a little boy who is no different from thousands of other boys. And I don’t really need you. And you don’t need me either. All I am to you is a fox who is just like a thousand other foxes. But, if you tame me, we will need each other. Then, to me, you will be unique in the entire world. And I will be unique for you in the world…

    [Ch. 21, translation mine]

    That is why I wrote the book PQA in a Wink! and why I chose to begin each year without focusing on stories for months and months, until I had gotten to know the kids and normed the classroom.

    What is most significant about what David did here is that he never gave up, and links with his students were created very slowly, imperceptibly, in spite of the unavoidable existence of the pig kids last year (making level 1 the hardest level to teach in my opinion).

    And it is not just because of the rude kids from last year that David was unable to make the links at that time – links between people don’t occur fast if they are to be lasting, as per:

    Que faut-il faire? dit le petit prince.

    -Il faut être très patient, répondit le renard. Tu t’assoiras d’abord un peu loin de moi, comme ça, dans l’herbe. Je te regarderai du coin de l’oeil et tu ne diras rien. Le langage est source de malentendus. Mais, chaque jour, tu pourras t’asseoir un peu plus près…

    What do I do? said the Little Prince.

    – You have to be very patient, answered the fox. First you just sit a little bit away from me, like that, in the grass. I will look at you out of the corner of my eye but don’t say anything. Language is a source of confusion. But, each day, you can sit a little closer…

    And so it is that, figuratively, we can sit a little closer to our students, those who are ready to do the taming work of going deeper and deeper into what we have to teach them, which, for me, has always been French poetry and one of the reasons I became a teacher in the first place, to share works like this one with my students.

    But some kids have never even had a chance (sometimes even with their own parents) to build trust in the way described by Saint-Exupery above. Taming takes take time. Luckily, many of us can actually continue with the kids in the second and third and fourth years, and the kids with whom we are meant to have close links and show our best knowledge to remain with us over the years. And that is what leads us to real teaching, and justifies the kind of work and patience David describes above.

  3. A great reminder–we cannot recreate, predict or force magic. We appreciate magic when it comes, but we don’t try to reproduce it. Even if our classes consisted of exactly the same students the next time, the moments are not the same.

    Ah, two great reminders–we cannot recreate our home-run moments and we need to cultivate patience: “links between people don’t occur fast if they are to be lasting.” It takes awhile for students to get used to this new way of being a real part of this organism we call a “class.” I need to remember that next fall…

  4. To add to David’s comment, I often noticed that when I had a class two years in a row, the second year was always so much better. I think it has to do with trusting each other and knowing each other. And it saves so much time!

  5. I agree, Judy. Last year I had a small 3/4/AP class, and we had a wonderful, relaxed time of interacting with one another. Some days we went out and did something (e.g. I taught them to fence in German), some days we did “watch and discuss” with a movie, some days we debated, some days we just sat and talked with each other about the weekend, films they liked, what was happening in school, etc.

    Toward the end of the year, I received a couple of notes from students thanking me for the experience of German class. One student wrote that he learned a lot of life lessons as well as German from me. Another wrote that he treasured my having told him that I was glad he took my German class. Imagine, one of his most memorable moments in school was simply having a teacher say that the teacher was glad to have him in class. (BTW, this student definitely enriched the class in myriad and often subtle ways. German is his third language – yes, he was an English Language Learner.)

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