Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I'm just a Jester on the sidelines....

photo courtesy
Yesterday I was called a "Jester" by a former student.  It made me cry, in that ugly, sobbing, convulsing kind of way.   You know, the kind that isn't pretty, or ever seen on television.  The real sobbing-crying-convulsing crying. It sounds horrendous, but it is actually very cathartic.  
Because in this instance, I embrace the Jester, and am beyond honored to have been humbled to the point of tears. As a teacher, the tears come at a variety of times throughout the year-- exhaustion, frustration, graduation -- yet no tears flow so freely for me as when a voice from the past reaches into the present for a fleeting moment, with a big giant thumb in the air affirming the efforts of the past -- and impacting the future through the strength that kudos thumb provides.

It came in the form of an innocent post on Facebook.  The caption:  "Pitt Freshmen Engineering."    
I will be the first to admit that it is rare to receive YouTube video links that aren't actually to my daughter's channel for her semi-weekly "Meats and Sweets"  episodes, so I figured that I should take the time to view the link that had been deemed, by the sender, as something "Susan Heydt might enjoy."  

What I got was a glimpse into a very raw footage of a giant "Fish or Cut Bait" speech by an engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh, with a most unusual format to introduce and deliver his henchmen-like speech.    Jane and the Dragon provided the introduction for his lecture.

The professor had gone to the extended effort of scanning the entire children's book by Martin Baynton into a powerpoint presentation that was visible on both the large screen in the front of the room and on every computer in the classroom.  It's pretty easy to recognize that this guy is someone that is well-liked by the kids.  (Even if his language is much more peppered with street language than you'd ever hear in the K - 12 setting).  This professor used this innocent children's book to hit this class of freshmen with the harsh reality of the impending doom to their GPAs, and to their futures.

Being the Teacher of the Gifted, I have the amazing privilege to develop long-term relationships with kids.  At one point I was overseeing gifted in our district from 1st - 12th grade, and some of those students are graduating this year.  It's easy to become something akin to a crazy aunt to some of these families.  In fact, in the case of the aforementioned Pitt student, I was actually listed as the emergency contact on his medical records at school.  It's a unique job, with unique kids.

Many people feel these gifted kids can find their own way in the world -- and I'd like to vehemently argue against that philosophy.  Even after they've gone to college, as proven above, the intervention of a kind dragon (or professor) to encourage or face reality is necessary.  And sometimes it's easier coming from someone other than mom and dad.

My family often jokes about my references to "my kids."  You see, I have three biological children.  Oh, and another few hundred that I hold in my heart.  And few things make my heart sing than to find someone reaching back and accusing me of being his Jester.  I'll take that title over Teacher of the Gifted any single day.

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