Tuesday, September 06, 2005

 

Being seen

I just retired from one of the best teaching jobs in the country in order to pursue this persistent vision of writing and publishing. At our school (I still feel a proprietary interest in it) we would take the kids out on three extended trips a year. There are two bicycle based trips in October and June and also a mid-March trip where teachers are able to create their own journey. I was able to take kids cross-country skiing in Yosemite. All together I would spend 22-25 days a year outdoors with the kids. The teachers slept on the ground with the kids and would also lead them up the mountain both literally and symbolically.

In November we would hold conferences with every student and their parents, with all of the student's teachers in attendance. We would try to paint a picture in depth of the student based on our experiences of them in and out of the classroom. I might observe that a student who struggled in math was more than willing to help a classmate on the road with a flat tire or be an inspiration on a very hot, long, hard climb. As we would go around through the teacher's stories there were many tears, not from students, but from parents. The parents would then comment how they wished this experience for themselves and how painful their own middle school/junior high years had been for them. They were joyful for their own children, but realized how much they had missed for themselves. We all crave to be really seen, especially at this age, but it just doesn't happen and the hole that is left carries on with us all through life.

Why as individuals and as a culture do we inflict this gaping hole on each other? It doesn't have to happen. Most people can't even identify what the hole is, because they don't even have a name for it or any idea of what they're missing. For them the hole is simply the way life is. There is more. I know this.


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