Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Last Saturday I chaperoned another Habitat for Humanity trip. This time we dug gutters in the ground the entire day. The ground was hard and the gutters had to run 30 cm wide and 60 cm deep each, around 3 sides of the house. This is a tropical country; it was humid and the sun shone brightly starting at about 11am. It was warm, and some of the neighbors who weren't doing the digging even had their shirts off. The kids, amazingly, never complained. I was so impressed, considering these were mandatory service hours these seniors had to do in order to graduate.

I dug alongside the kids the whole day, obviously. We used pick axes and shovels to break up the soil. It was hard work. At some point, I reflected out loud, "This makes me very thankful that I earn a living using my mind." Another colleague of mine replied: "When we were in high school, my dad made me and my sister go out and get manual labor part-time jobs, so that we can truly appreciate earning a living with our minds instead of our body." --It's so true. In my entire life I have never had to exert force to earn a living. The hardest job I had was cleaning bathrooms at fast-food restaurants. Not so hard compared with digging with pick axes in the sun, I'd say.

Do your kids know that it's fortunate to have a job where their mind is prized over their physical labor?


Today was Holocaust Remembrance Day at school. The entire 9th grade was taken out of classes and doing presentations for their research projects, a la History Day style. This year in particular, I was so impressed by their creative employment of manipulatives and activities at every interactive exhibit. It helped me remember some of the facts that I never otherwise would have remembered. I wonder if it's a reflection of their teachers' teaching methodologies, that allows these kids to think outside of the box?

Afterwards, when I sent all the kids an email reminding them what to bring to class tomorrow, I briefly commented on how proud I was of them today and why they should learn about/reflect upon the horrors of the Holocaust. I think it is important that they know that all teachers, not just their history and English teachers, think of this as an important issue that will hopefully shape their character to understand the importance of abolishing hate.


Some of you on Twitter have probably read this, but recently I found out via Facebook that one of my former students who had lost his parent recently is now apparently a gang-banger, throwing around gang signs in every Facebook photo he takes with his "bros" in the project buildings or on the streets where they hang out. I cried when I found out, and then I cried again when I was telling this to someone I know. I had taught this kid for two years and always spent extra time to pep-talk him outside of class to keep trying. I had always had a soft spot for this kind-hearted kid who struggled in school. I felt utterly heart-broken when I found out, because I know this would never have happened if his parent were still alive. I sent him a message on Facebook and I don't know if he'll ever get it or ever respond. I just want him to know that I've always thought of him as a special kid and that I still think about him and hope his rough patch will pass.

But in reality, I am worried and heart-broken. It's my 5th year teaching. This is the year when I get to see my former 8th-graders go off to college, and also to see some of them throwing gang signs on every photo on Facebook and having status updates about not going to school and smoking and drinking at home instead. The difference between the kids who grew up together is staggering. I know it's just the reality, but the recognition of that fact does not make me feel any less sad.

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