Sunday, August 17, 2008

Do You See What I See?

My favorite author, Frederick Buechner, advises us to listen to our lives. This post is in response to what I've been hearing. In my last post, I wrote about our responsibility to our students beyond the nine months of classroom time--we have a responsibility to them, and society, for life.
Gloria Ladson-Billings in the essay "Yes, But How do We do It?," writes:

Culturally relevant teachers envision their students as being filled with possibilities. They imagine that somewhere in the classroom is the nexe Nobel laureate (a Toni Morrison), the next neurosurgeon (a Benjamin Carson), or the next pioneer for social justice (a Fannie Lou Hamer).

When I read this excerpt, I underlined it as any good active reader would do. Then this morning while at church, one of the lay preachers reminded us that an authentic Christian community doesn't simply see people for what they currently are, but instead has vision to see what they can become. Two days, one message.
In this blog, I have often referred to my students as what they are: minorities, Hispanics, low S.E.S., and perhaps a few emotionally charged names. It isn't that I don't see the potential in my students. I am reminded of the young lady I taught in Seattle who e-mailed me not too long ago. In my response I reminded her, "I still believe in you," a common refrain during that particular school year.
But this message, from two very different sources, caused me to evaluate how I approach my students. Will I continue to see them as low SES minorities, or will I see them as the first Hispanic president, the next Sandra Cisneros or Pedro Noguera?
If I fail to honestly and completely make this adjustment, I can't imagine a truly successful career at this school.

5 Comments:

At 4:52 PM , OpenID onteaching said...

I need to save this post and make a note to read it at least once a six-weeks.

I hadn't thought of looking at my students as who they can become - and being open-minded and hopeful when doing so. Unfortunately, embitterment takes over and many teachers do look at their students as what they think the students will become, but they assume the worst, condemning them to remain yet another faceless low-SES minority member.

 
At 3:27 PM , Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Mr. McNamar, I think I do a pretty good job, but I also think I need to try to be a little more like you.

 
At 4:27 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Dennis,
I think most of us are like this, especially when our careers are new or the school year is new. But our optimism gets beat down by overwhelmed administrators and the few negative colleagues who look to blame anyone but themselves. The result is that we can't openly point out the culpability of our colleagues, so we fall into the trap of putting it all on the kids. I know I have been very guilty of that, especially this past year.

 
At 11:54 AM , Anonymous Pam Neidig said...

Andrew, Greetings from the shoreline! I just had to take a peek and see what your blog was up to and this post struck me. I do hope you are able to cross that bridge this year and really see what potential those kids have. I know it is hard, considering how many "fuck offs" you'll hear at the same time. But they really do have so much to offer. I've seen it first hand and it's why I stay in touch with so many of them even though I've left the district. Good luck this year. I know it will be a difficult year but those kids are worth the effort.
-- Pam Neidig

 
At 4:19 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Thanks for stopping in, Pam. These students are worth my effort. I just hope I have the time to care--we received our schedule of 35+ meetings (or one a week).

 

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