Teaching: Bright Moments Come Back Vivid


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One of my favorite lines from a Mos Def song (arguably my favorite rapper/musician/artist of all time in the whole wide world) is “bright moments, bright moments always come back vivid.” So my refrain in my head for the past few days at school has been: “Bright moments.”

Teaching – my first year – has been so difficult in so many ways. But I’m searching every day for the bright moments, and treasuring them. On this teacher workday, I found one. And I wanted to share it with those of you who care.

I have a very bright student who is always talking about big themes and big ideas (like whether Hitler was a bad person) (that’s a story for another day), and today while grading assignments, I came across an amazing story.

Tuesday, I gave students an assignment to write a different ending to a story we read in class. This student’s story blew me away. (These are ninth graders, guys.) Here’s a link to the short story: http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2061/. Please read it first! Below is the student’s response.

Aksionov lived to be 80 years old. When he was released, he left to go to his family, but was pushed away by some guards. He asked why and they told him that he was dead and his wife had already married someone else. Askionov left and went to a bar parlor. He sat down and drank til he had no more rubles. The bartender woke him  up.  He left and went down the road. He crossed the road and was hit by a wagon. When he awoke, he lay on a bed. It was hard. He got up and noticed that he was in a cell. The guard opened the cell door and told him, “Release day. Come on.” Aksionov got up and walked to the door. He looked at the guard, “I’d rather stay.”

Wow. I’m not claiming literary genius in my ninth graders. But I am saying that’s pretty deep, for a 15-16 year old. And for me, it’s a bright moment.

Like the moment yesterday when a student came to me and brought two of their graphic novels to let me borrow. Or like the moment when that crazy student who never returns anything brought a pen back to me the next day. (That’s a feat for some.) Or like the moment when I caught a student drinking comically out of an orange juice container (it’s hard to explain, I don’t even know what they were doing), the student burst out laughing and almost spilled orange juice everywhere. Or like yesterday, when we played a game (suggested by the good old folks at our Teacher Induction Program meetings) which had the students up and dancing around to find a partner for the activity. The energy in the classroom was joyful and electric.

In the future, I have all these dreams. I see myself using music, acting, dance, creative writing, to teach my students about the world and about themselves. Sometimes, though, in this first year, I’m just holding my head above the classroom management waters. Yet as I learn, I keep searching for and treasuring those bright moments, those bright students who, whether they know it or not, are actually teaching me.

“Bright moments, bright moments always come back vivid.”




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