“¡Se me cayó mi diente anoche!”
“Did you see? Yesenia lost her tooth!”
“GRRR. I’m a monster today.”
These are the sounds that follow me as my students and I enter our first grade classroom at Escuela Biling-e Pioneer in Colorado. As we go in and I greet each one of my students, I see a plethora of individual strengths, beauty, and needs. Each one of these young people brings some amazing gifts into our classroom community. They come from a variety of backgrounds. They’re from very poor homes with parents who are illiterate and work hard for minimum pay, to very affluent homes with stay-at-home moms, and Dads who travel on business and save up frequent flyer miles for vacations to Disneyworld. They come from homes where only Spanish is spoken, homes where only English is spoken and homes that are bilingual and bicultural, and not necessarily just with English and Spanish. I believe that sharing this diversity as we do every school day makes each of us a better person.
The day we return from Spring Break, I ask, as usual, “How was your break? What did you do?” There are tales of ski trips to Vail, and vacations in New Mexico and California. One student says that she and her family drove to Mexico to visit family. Some rode their bikes around the neighborhood and went to the park. Others spent time with extended family while their parents worked. Overall, though, they had a great time with their families and their neighbors, each in his or her way.
If these youngsters are the future of our country, then I am encouraged and reassured. These children care about one another. They see their diversity, call it what it is, and understand that each of them has strengths and needs. They ask for and offer help. They like a challenge and feel good when they work hard to achieve something. They are learning to resolve conflict in peaceful and productive ways. They care about animals. They pick up litter. They can explain why it’s important to be nice. They trust. They tell me I’m the best teacher ever, especially when I’m a little grumpy.
As I look around this room and listen to the conversation of these 6 and 7 year olds, I hope that my efforts to teach them are worthy of them, for I know that there is as much potential for greatness as I have students, right here in my very diverse first grade classroom. This, I truly believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.