Here is another teacher story from my archives, dated 2004.
Paloma wept over a picture book today. She came into my office-sized classroom hot and sweaty from recess. First we studied the curriculum lesson, a poster about thermal currents. Then I handed her a book to read: Now One Foot, Now the Other by Tomie DePaola.
“Read this and then choose from the list and write a response in your journal,” I told her. On the crowded walls is a list of possible ways to respond to reading: What surprised you? How are the people in the book like your family? How are they different? Etc.
As Paloma read, I previewed the lessons for the coming week and made notes about materials needed for the next project. At some point she paused in her reading and said, “It’s sad.”
“Yes.” I said.
We returned to silence and our respective tasks.
DePaola’s story is about a five-year old boy, Bobby, and his Grandfather, Bob. Bob teaches Bobby to walk. They have a loving, special relationship that DePaola depicts with an economy of words. Then Bob has a stroke and loses his speech. Bobby helps his grandfather learn to walk again.
When she finished the story, Paloma chose to write about what impressed her. We were quiet again as she wrote a page in her notebook, and I organized my notes in my daily log.
“Done,” she said.
“Do you want to read it to me?”
“No, you read it.”
I read aloud a passage about Paloma and her grandparents in Mexico. She told how they taught her to take care of the animals and feed the chickens.
I finished reading and looked up. Her eyes were shiny with tears. We talked about missing grandparents and I told her about growing up with only my grandmother, who was not a warm and fuzzy grandmotherly person. She asked about my mother and father and how they died. We talked quite a while past her lesson time.
After she left, I felt an angel had passed over. Something magical happened there. I sensed it but I couldn’t say what it was. A heart was touched by a simple story; a connection was made between a 10-year-old Mexican immigrant girl growing up in the year 2004 and a five-year-old Italian boy growing up sometime before World War II.
It’s a tribute to Tomie DePaola that he writes so well, and also to Paloma that she allowed so much of herself to be present and sensitive. As for me, I think I witnessed a small miracle today.