© copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert
I have seen the look before, the focused eye, the stare full of hope. Years ago, I thought it was fear and for some it was. However, later many told me it was not for them. Pupils told me where their minds were in those first moments, what they were thinking as I shared my classroom standards with them. Many said they were focused on my face, my words, and me. Some stated that in the very first seconds they were scared; they had never heard a voice so certain and firm while still being so calm and caring. They were in awe.
Shock filled their minds. There was no screaming, yelling, or rage; I was merely resolute. I offered stories to explain my stance. I asked if there are questions. I requested that they participate. I actively wanted to ensure that there was a complete understanding. Students have said they appreciated this opportunity, the exchange. They had heard the “rules” from other instructors; however, mine were different; they provided for choice. For most, my presentation was also unusual. However, more than the vast majority understood my words. I knew this by their behavior.
Today, those gazes caught my attention again. They continue to fill my mind.
It has been a long time since I saw those stares. I was living and working in an oasis. I had forgotten. For years, I taught in California, a state that rates low in education. However, I taught only in exceptional pockets and my purse was full. I saw students full of life and light. They were energetic, enthusiastic, empathetic, and seeking enlightenment. The students in Irvine, for the most part want to learn. Parents are involved and encouraging. Yes, there are exceptions; however these are a few and far between. Those that are lost seem to have a lifetime of reasons to be so.
I had forgotten. I had long ago accepted Irvine as the “norm.” Then I moved. I intentionally did my research. I chose to live in an affluent community, one that I thought comparable to the Orange County oasis I had lived in for years. Thus far, it is not. There are similarities, and stark differences. There are not necessarily evident in a study of demographics or other statistics.
I intentionally searched for a city with a college or two. It seems from my observations and experience that youth seeking an education guide a greater community. The young often have more buying power and influence that the elders, no matter where the locale. Great minds gravitate to cities with Universities, at least that was my belief. I saw this in Irvine. I have yet to witness it here.
As a child, I lived this. My Mom always chose to live in cities full of culture. She investigated, where were the educational institutions. Each time Berenice decided to move, she would begin her search by asking where the professionals, intellectuals, and academics lived. I did this too. Admittedly, the weather was my guidepost; still, the essence of erudition was my mission. I expected to find this in a population such as this; I have not.
Today I entered a class. The students had never seen or experienced me before. This was only my third day teaching in this city. I began class as I always do; I shared my standards. The climate in this class differed from my Irvine world, though I knew it would. As I said this was my third day teaching in this city and in this state. I am overwhelmed by what is not.
I have discovered that here, unlike in California, private schools are extremely popular. Perhaps that is where students similar to those I once knew are. I know not. I do acknowledge that when I first heard of all the exclusive institutions, I thought this is as it is in California as well. Now I wonder; is it? In my neophyte state, wisdom says this is different. As of this writing, I do not have enough information, though I plan to learn. I will investigate, ask, read, look, and listen. However, I digress.
Today, the numerous looks of anticipation captured my attention. The unspoken thanks, the gratitude expressed by those that welcomed the stillness in the room, and the feeling that my standards were appreciated by those that reflected a desire to learn drew me in. When there is a great contrast between those wanting knowledge and those lost in a world of whims, an observer can only be struck by those expectant eyes.
When pupils push for the removal of a distracting and disruptive student, a teacher, a parent, an elder can be moved. It is refreshing to realize that no mater what the situation, many still have what is too easily lost, the desire to learn. As I drove home and thought of the day, an ancient song rang in my head. The title, “Tears of a Clown.” Granted the song speaks to a lost love; nevertheless, I think when we lose our love of learning, we are lost. Our greatest love is gone, that pleasure we feel when we are growing greater, strong, and knowledgeable.
I am glad and grateful; there are those that still hope. This is good. It is a pleasure to realize that given the opportunity to study in a focused manner, to be taught more than mere facts, or gain greater knowledge than conventional circumstances provide, students still choose to grab on, even if it is a novel experience.
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