Thursday, September 11, 2014

Back to School Night

Last night was Lucca's Back to School Night.  Aside from the surreal feeling of being back in my old highschool - the night was remarkable.  Totally, completely re-energizing.

Of course, it was great to meet his teachers and hear the nice compliments they had for him.  We are so blessed with that boy, let there be no mistake about it.  But what really caught my attention was the conversation I had with the ESL teacher.  Since Lucca is new to the country, he has to be evaluated for English proficiency.  I've been hearing a lot of nice things about this teacher and I looked forward to meeting him...

When I introduced myself, I was immediately struck by his gentle yet energetic demeanor. He went on to tell me that he works with about 10 English Language Learners per year and his main goal, aside from appropriate adjustment to the new school, is to prep them for the mandatory MCAS test (a statewide test necessary for high school graduation).  In his 20+ years working with teens, he has a 100% success rate on the test.  100% success rate on a difficult exam with a population as diverse as the world itself - this guy is the real deal.   He was modest.  He readily offered that he has the luxury of a small group of kids which really allows him to get to know the students, their strengths & weaknesses and the best ways to help them learn.   While he has kids from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa - many of them come from stable home environments and have been well educated in their home countries.  That said, teaching a foreign language while helping students adjust to major cultural differences and achieving the results demanded by the school and the state is not simple and this guy does it.  Year after year, student after student - he improves the daily life as well as the trajectory of life for students.   One simple teacher - with nothing more than his brain, his heart and his desire to do it.  

We hear about celebrities in trouble.  We hear about politicians in scandal.  CEO's with dysfunctional homes.  I know... It really is no surprise to me.  When power and money are what motivates you, why does it surprise any of us that these people make the choices they do.   But what about when something else motivates you - what about when the desire to positively effect lives one at a time, to take the gifts that have been bestowed on you and use them to help people without the same good fortune, is what gets you out of bed in the morning.   What kind of person does that make you, what choices do you make?

I left the ESL office only because another parent came in.  I could have spent hours with this man.  I wanted to know everything - what are his struggles, what works best, what trends does he see most often...  He was kind enough to share his victories - kids who have gone on to hold Ivy league PhD's, become doctors, researchers, school teachers themselves...   Kids that showed up to a new school, in a new country for whatever the reason and with the help of a teacher who really cared and a public school system that fostered their development will change the world themselves.   The ripple effect. Life beyond ourselves....