By petr888


December 27, 2008

There is a special serenity at this time of year which encourages reflection. As I look back over the past 12 months I realize how incredibly fortunate I have been – one might even say, blessed. Many of these blessings were experienced as brief moments – hence the title to this entry. They come and go so quickly they could easily be missed. Here are a few of mine in no particular order- may they help you recall moments of your own.
One of my grade 11 students is virtually stone deaf and ESL – can you imagine learning a new language when you cannot hear? This young person, it turns out, wants to be a designer – but has very limited experience with computers and is in my class. There is a teaching assistant who comes to the school once a week to help her with all of her subjects but she is on her own in each class. Oh my. It turns out she is very smart and very determined and willing to work. We set a goal for her – a first term mark of 60% – she blows that away by earning an honest 81%. She came to the parent-teacher interviews with her mom and dad. Her mom, it turns out, was a medical professional in their former country. Here in Canada she is working at a coffee shop serving donuts and coffee and learning English slowly. The whole family broke down in tears when they spoke of the help and support their daughter received here – tears of gratitude and appreciation. That on its own was a moment frozen in time. But it was later, the last class before Christmas, when this student came to me after class to give me a present from she and her family. They have absolutely no extra money, much less money for a gift. My heart plummeted when she gave me the gift but I knew I had to accept it to allow them all this opportunity to say thank you. That small box of chocolates was my whole Christmas.
Its July in San Francisco and I am there for the annual AEL Summer Institute – that on its own is one enormous moment. But there is more. I am biking across the Golden Gate Bridge… thank you Megan for suggesting this. It is incredible. Absolutely incredible…
I have a student who regularly scores in the 60’s – never really tries, never really gets fully engaged. This one day we had finished using Photoshop and had moved on to audio software. Looking at his screen it was obvious this was too much for him, but this time I approached it differently. Instead of asking how he was doing I simply crouched down beside him and very quietly said, “Looks like you’re having trouble. Let me show you an easier way – easier is good!” He smiled at that idea and gave me his mouse and – something shifted, something changed. He listened. In that sacred moment learning happened because he opened his mind and he really, truly listened. We spent about twenty minutes together – he moved forward and I…. well, I was given another moment.
Today CS4 arrived!! YES!! I go to load it…. oh… I need to download XP Service Pack 3. I hated doing that – early builds had been full of problems but if Adobe says they need it, then I guess its okay. It all turns out fine. I go to load CS4 again…. I’m ready, I’m really really ready…. oh…. not enough ram. Damn ram…. fine… I get more ram. I go to load it again….. it takes two hours but it loads! Hooray!!! “Whats that? You need all my marks for the report cards? You mean I have to wait to play with CS4? Fine.” Not all moments are created equal…. LOL. P.S. – I am using CS4 and loving it! More on that soon.
My photography club is asked to take photos of female students made up with stage makeup to look battered and hurt because they are speaking out against violence against women and they need our help to record the event. We watch as the teacher applies the makeup and it is almost too convincing – this is the reality of the situation really coming to life right in front of us. Two of my students start shooting and the whole situation takes on a life of its own. These kids are totally, absolutely engaged – the models, the shooters and we the teachers who are helping, suggesting, and watching. THIS is why we teach…. The display covers the entire front lobby wall and is fabulous. It is even left up for the grade 8 parent night (the grade 8 students and parents from our feeder schools come for an orientation / open house). Thank you to the new principal for letting the display stay up so the kids could show their work and their concern about the problem. More moments…… watching my students shooting, observing the models working, watching other kids read the display and look at the pics.
Speaking of photos, the picture at the top of this entry was yet another moment. I like to get up early on Sunday morning and drive down to Lake Ontario to shoot photos if there is anything interesting. On this day about three weeks ago I caught sight of this momentary image and immediately raced into a parking lot and ran down to the shore to capture the light before it disappeared. I got the picture, the clouds shifted and the image was gone.
Its been quite a school year – and we have only just begun. Happy new year to all – may you have many moments of your own.


  • By keith - 12:19 PM on December 27, 2008  

    Having taught 8-12th graders photography for 25+ years it’s great fun when we can make connections with kids. As you say: “THIS is why we teach….”

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    • By PEter - 11:25 PM on September 14, 2011  

      To Anne – I tried answering your comment / request but the email address your gave was out of order. Please send a new comment with a new email address and I will contact you and help you with your school project.
      Peter French, the author of this article

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