Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Jaime Escalante, Part 1

I only have a handful of heroes. Jaime Escalante is one of them. Reflecting on his success as a teacher he wrote the following:

"The communication of love to one’s students goes further than just caring and listening. It also means that I must be willing to repeat an idea, concept, or term as many times as needed for the student to understand it. I have to make sure that every kid is listening to me and watching me when I teach, so that they do not miss a thing. There is no perfect approach that works for every student, so I am continually developing new ways of conveying ideas. That is one reason why I spend so much time at the job: to ensure that what I have said to the group is actually understood by each individual, I feel obliged to communicate to each kid personally. I find out what bugs students and what switches on their “learning light.” I learn their dreams, and I believe that I am here to assist each of them to realize these dreams."

Such beauty! Such idealism! Reminds me of Jen's student teacher Staci (who kept being genuinely surprised by instances in our building of Extreme Stupidity). Of course I believe I'm in the trenches every day to help each of them realize their dreams, but, let's be honest, I'm quite jaded. I let bureaucratic nonsense bother me and I sometimes wonder how much I can accomplish for each of them. It's amazing to me that he wrote this lovely prose at the end of his career. Just imagine--his life-long commitment to finding new and better ways to teach, his deep love for each kid, his bubbling passion, and his incredible patience. I feel fortunate to have such an honorable hero. I wonder if he's still alive.

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