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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Year, New Chance; Right?

Lessons Learned

Time To Begin Again

Fall. A new school year. Within the first few days of school one particular year, a young student very innocently, very sincerely posed undoubtedly the most compelling question of all when he asked, “Can I change?”  Wondering if he was seeking permission or questioning possibility, the teacher probed, “What do you mean?”  The student, who carried, along with his new backpack, a red-flag reputation in teacher-talk, proceeded to spill his heart through the story he shared about his school experience so far. Not a good listener. A little disrespectful.  Frequently yelled at. In the lowest groups. Probably a trouble-maker.  Never invited to a birthday party. School was stupid. Mom told him he needed to change, and he needed to change now, because things were not going to ever get better if he didn’t.  Can I change? Do I have the strength and courage necessary to turn this behavior boat around?  Even if I can, can others accept this new me and change their expectations and opinions of me? If their perceptions are cast in stone and unchangeable, why should I even try to be different than the bad boy they expect? This was a tremendous amount of significant contemplating for a young mind to be processing during those early days in a school  year when most were struggling to line up in the proper order  and to recall their locker numbers. The teacher, realizing that questions of this sort which come right from the deepest chambers of a student’s heart, felt overwhelmingly humbled to be entrusted with this huge amount of vulnerability.  The student’s  eyes were wide, trusting, and demanding. This answer was to be as important as the question in terms of behavioral trajectory.  With focused eye-contact , tender vocal tone, and unmistakable belief, the teacher  promised that precious little boy that each year was a new year, that each day was a new day, and each one was a new opportunity to begin again with a clean slate. We all make mistakes and bad choices for which we are not proud, but apologies, grace and forgiveness are powerfully strong.  It’s never too late to turn around. It’s never too late to make a new and better choice.  Now is the time. Start now. This is how we learn, and this is how we grow. “Yes, you can change,” said the teacher.  “This is going to be a good year,” smiled the boy. And it was.

Monday, August 3, 2015

What Are You Teaching Today?

Lessons Learned

The Lesson of Green

There were so many things I had wondered about blindness and deafness, and not simply the sterile, scientific, factual ramifications, symptoms, or causes of these particular special needs, for infinite pages of information about and research concerning blindness and deafness were readily available; undoubtedly enough material to support a lifetime of articles to be written. No, I wondered about the feelings associated with the everyday, ordinary, walking-through-life experience of being blind and/or being deaf.  Was the silent, dark world sad or lonely or scary? Do you imagine sounds? What would you imagine spring to sound like? In your imagination, do you see pictures? Colors? My dear blind-deaf friend, who taught me more than most of my college textbooks, welcomed these sorts of questions driven by curiosity and an earnest desire to understand and be sensitive. He frequently chuckled at the endless stream of questions that I would clumsily fingerspell into his hand.  He was pursuing a PhD in Computer Science and was the first true genius I had ever met. One day, in the midst of transcribing a textbook to braille, which was always an excellent time for listening to him explain his thoughts, ideas, and feelings, I asked my friend, “What is your favorite color?” His instantaneous response was, “Green.” There was not a moment’s thought. There was no pensive pause for contemplation. Just an automatic, “Green.” He had obviously considered this before and confidently trumpeted his answer. How? and why? were my knee-jerk responses. His beautiful response was one I will never forget.  He smiled as his soft, clear voice replied, “I know that green is the color of living things. Living things are hopeful and fresh and lovely. Because of that knowledge, I am certain that green is a color that I would love.”  There was always something ever-optimistic, ever-hopeful, and ever-believing about my most amazing friend. In his silent, dark world, he ceaselessly pursued learning, service to others, and joy. In his silent, dark world, he chose possibility and promise and fully discarded self-pity and self-doubt. He believed. He knew hope. He trusted in the goodness of those around him and generously gave of the greatness that was in him. In his silent, dark world, he heard life’s music and saw the light. He taught me.

Who am I teaching today and what? How about you?