Last week I made a goof in my third grade classroom that was swiftly corrected by my young friend, Daquan. I ask the kids to bring in at least one news article every month to share with the class. It’s no real hardship. We have a paper delivered to our classroom every day. And most days, there is time to read around in it. We also have these large public journals where the children and I record questions and observations, facts and amazements. We have four journals: Culture, Science, Language and Math.
Sharing news and journals is an important time for us. These are some of the richest conversations we have in class. All are teachers and learners. It is an example of true inquiry. Reports are made about the natural world, interesting math patterns the children discover, quirky language stories and other observations about our world. It is a time for the children to be teachers. It makes every day and every year different.
Today, for example, Sam showed us a photo of a pretty exchange student who stayed with them for a while. She was from Bosnia. He took the globe around to show us where that country is. Sydney told of a girl who became paralyzed after eating tainted hamburger. Daquan shared about a toad he and his brother found. Amaryah showed us the band-aid where she got her flu shot yesterday. I shared letters from the editor about Governor Sanford: two in favor of him resigning and one saying that the citizens of SC should let him do his job. Emily shared a story from last week’s paper about Governor Sanford’s driver being pulled over for doing 80 in a 60 mph zone. The video on the patrolman’s car showed him getting a handshake from the governor. No ticket was given. Mills shared a news story about a golfer in Beaufort who had his arm taken off by a gator. Fortunately his friend retrieved the arm from inside the gator and it was reattached! I also shared the results of a new study about the perils of drinking too much soda.
We never know what will come up, but more often than not it is interesting. It is one of the purest examples of inquiry during our day. Some children participate a lot during this time. Others sort of sit and let the conversations wash over them. Usually around the end of each month, I must remind a few kids that the deadline is coming up so they don’t miss it.
Daquan is not one of those who needs reminding. He almost always has several news and journal articles to share each month. Occasionally, children will wait until it is time to have our class meeting to rush over to the paper and look through it quickly and then ad lib when it is their turn to share. It’s no big deal but it is a little annoying. We can usually see right through this and I suggest that the child take the article home, read it over more carefully, perhaps with Mom or Dad, and then bring it back when they really know about it; when they can “speak from the heart” and not try to read it on the spot.
One day last week, I saw Daquan scanning the paper when the clean-up music was already on. I thought I’d busted him and said, perhaps a little too gruffly, “Hey Daquan, you know you are not supposed to do that. You can’t just pull something randomly from the paper to present.”
“I’m not. I know about this one.”
“Right,” I smirked. “I can see you shuffling through the paper, Daquan. You had lots of time to prepare something. The clean-up music is already on. Give it up.”
He stood up, held the newspaper and looked me square in the eye. “You want some advice, Mr. O.?”
“What?” I said.
He straightened out the paper, folding it back into its proper shape before speaking. “You shouldn’t accuse someone of something before you really know the situation.” He paused. Dramatic effect? “I did read that story before. I am ready to share it. Just because you didn’t see me read it doesn’t mean I didn’t read it. Know what I mean?”
I was instantly humbled. “I am so sorry Daquan. You are right. I am wrong.” He was not being a smart aleck or condescending, he was simply reacting as a friend, a friend who was wrongly accused. He didn’t rub it in. He saw I was genuinely sorry.
“Oh, that’s OK, man.”
Then I said something I often say, “Once again, the student becomes the teacher and the teacher becomes the student.” He just smiled his beautiful smile and we went on with the class business.
When I was a kid, my mom used to ask me every day what I learned in school. Usually I gave her the standard answer… some bland factoid. When I ask my son Colin how his day went, he usually rattles off test scores he got back or talks about tests and quizzes he had to take. If anyone asked me what I learned that day in school the one word answer would have been - humility.
Unfortunately, that is a lesson I have had to learn many times. Fortunately, I have just the right teachers.