Friday, October 28, 2011


"Clouds", oil, by Becky Joy
Since no one would ever consider calling a certain set of clouds second-rate or deficient, why, I wonder, do so many teachers think of some of their students that way? When we look at the sky, the clouds are just clouds – not ‘A’ clouds and ‘C’ clouds and ‘F’ clouds. All clouds are first-rate just as they are, whether bright and brimful, or grayish and stretched out, or shadowy and unsettled. We don’t say that a certain cloud “doesn’t have the skills” to be a perfect cloud, or that another cloud isn’t “up to speed” with the “more advanced” clouds, or that a particular cloud needs an IEP (Individual Education Program) in order to be a better cloud. They’re all simply clouds, and each one, in its own distinctive and extraordinary way, is special and satisfactory - and I feel precisely that way about my students. Each one --and I couldn’t be more serious -- is perfect, flawless, as good as new, the best, and beyond compare. True, they are each different, but their differences do not set them apart as better or worse - - just different. Their individual differences, you might say, are perfect differences. A student who reads at a very slow pace is a perfectly slow reader, in the sense that the slowness is what sets him part as a distinctive, one-of-a-kind student. He is good at being slow, just as any cloud in the sky is good at being unerringly the kind of cloud it is. Granted, I realize that kids are not clouds, and that this analogy loses power at certain places, but still, it’s interesting to notice how willing we are to rank and rate students with all kinds of scores and labels and grades, and yet how preposterous it would be to place something like clouds – or sunsets or dawns or sheets of stars across the sky -- in similar categories. To me, all the stars I saw this morning on my dark drive to school were consistently startling, in their special ways, and so are all my students.

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