Realize and the Embrace the Potential that lies within YOU
Where Do I Stand?
“Stay Gold,” is a memorable line spoken by Johnny, a character from one of my favorite young adult novels by S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders, to his friend Ponyboy Curtis. Johnny is referencing a Robert Frost poem encouraging Ponyboy to realize and embrace the potential that lies within him. As educators we strive to instill this ideal into our children, to stay gold. I am an educator today because people and experiences in my life have exemplified this truth and inspired me. I am from a family of educators who believe in the value of others, in the golden possibilities that lie within each of us and in a world that is full of good and flourishes because children are ready to meet it with ideas, enthusiasm and fervency. My grandmother taught elementary school in small Texas towns where the population of her classroom spoke more Spanish than English. Despite the language barriers, she inspired and made connections. My grandfather was a high school principal and coach who believed that there was great potential in every child who was willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard to achieve their dreams. My mother taught junior high and high school children from inner city and suburban area Dallas schools and treated each child as equally gifted and talented in their own rights, because she believes that underneath it all, we are from the same human race with the same amount of potential. I am a teacher; because I feel the passion my family has for advocating for bright futures.
I am a teacher because my teachers and educational support system helped me look inside myself and challenge myself. I am an educator because my second grade teacher created a part uniquely for each student in the classroom based upon our personality for our Christmas play, because my elementary librarian let me check out the biggest book in the library, because my seventh grade teacher celebrated the flan I made while singing La Bamba, because my high school English teacher had me rewrite a vignette three times which made earning that A minus feel like I had just won a championship game. I was blessed to be from a family of educators and a school district that truly nourished me and looked for the gold inside of me, these experiences and moments made me who I am, thankful to be able to create memorable experiences for my students today.
In The Outsiders, as Johnny is telling Ponyboy to stay gold he also tell him this, “You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want. There’s still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don’t think he knows.” There it is, there is our gauntlet, to try while we are imparting academic knowledge to our students to let them know that there is time, there is good in the world, that even if their circumstances or situation scream otherwise, to have hope and faith in their abilities. Each of our classrooms has one or several Dallys, someone who has lost faith in the world because they feel the world has let them down; they are our hard cases. They are why we teach. They are the ones who need to hear daily, “Stay Gold.” As educators, we are miners, prospecting for the nuggets found within our students. We want them all to strike it rich. We want to reach every child, impart knowledge, amplify their self-worth, and let them know there is good to be found. We know that we may not be successful every time, but we continue to mine, for when we do find those nuggets, we help our students to explore them, to celebrate them. We know it is an investment whose return we may not see today, but we have the conviction it is worth the hard work.
In my quest of reaching the Dallys, the Johnnys, and the Ponyboys, I strive to create positive, memorable, and purposeful experiences to help them mine for their gold. I believe that I work as a blend of a demonstrator and facilitator, guiding students into authentic learning experiences. I do this by employing various teaching strategies to reach all levels of multiple intelligences, collaborating with colleagues, and continuing my growth as an educator of 21st century skills. My students have been encouraged to explore and express their learning through uses of technology, song, dance and writing while learning to assess their own learning.
My students are often learning through activity, exploring creatively and cooperatively. I believe in working collaboratively, as I know we can reach our fullest potential and therefore best support our students by learning from and working with others. I have worked collaboratively with teachers on research, reading, writing and storytelling projects. I worked with the reading specialist over the last two years to secure grants to support the One School, One Book experience and reading nights. I often put students in partnerships or learning teams as I want them to also see the benefits of a collaborative experience and learn to appreciate and express differences.
I believe we need to celebrate the varied interests of students and have done so through the creation of an Author Barn in the library, and clubs such as Percy Jackson Club, the Reading, Writing and Recreation Club, Photo Story Club and a student news show. I also believe in the blending of character education into lessons as much as possible which is evident from my read aloud selections to project assignments.
Through all my practices, I remember to keep the students the focus, making learning meaningful. Knowing that S.E. Hinton was sixteen, in the throes of adolescent emotions and experiences and living through the emotional struggle of losing her father, while writing this book, she truly embodies the possibility that lie with the students that we teach. S.E. Hinton greatly credits Marilyn Marrow, a children’s book agent, to her success with The Outsiders. Of Marrow, Hinton said “my age and experience did not seem to matter, although my spelling horrified her.” “She looked out for me.” The students that sit in our classrooms, guidance offices, and cafeterias, behind the art easels, musical instruments, sports equipment and technology deserve our best. They need us to meet them where they are. Experience is not yet theirs; it is ours to be shared, to be taught, to be nurtured. They need someone to believe in them to tell them to “stay gold, there is time and that there is still good in the world.”