Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Man On Wire

I just finished a mini unit on courage and perseverance using the Academy Award-winning documentary film Man On Wire as my focus story. Before watching the film, I indulged in a read-aloud of Mordicai Gerstein's The Man Who Walked Between The Towers. I'm sort of sadly amazed at how much background I need to provide to my students on things I used to think everybody automatically knows, such as What Was The World Trade Center and Where Is New York City and Why Is The World Trade Center Not Standing Anymore. That last one, having to do with a lack of awareness of 9/11, is rare among my students, I must admit. But it is a fact that the kids who come into custody of the Department of Youth Services tend to be 1)lacking in formal schooling, 2)from families that either cannot or do not support learning, and 3)are ELL's. Hence, I need to pre-teach a lot of stuff. On the other hand, that's why I'm here, right? I love teaching, reading and learning side by side with my students. So I guess I'm in my dream job.

"Can you 'see' yourself in this story?" I ask them, reminding them that we comprehend stories in many ways, two important ones being feeling and visualizing. "Miss, I would never do what he did. To walk on a wire up in the air, that far up? No way. Maybe I'd try it if there were, like, a trampoline or something underneath me."

I give an empathetic chuckle. "I hear you on that one. I can't see myself as a wire walker, either. But what do you think Philippe Petit's story has to tell us about things like following a dream and never giving up? Is there a message there for us?"

One of my students, Miguel, raises his hand. "Miss, it's like he's telling us that we are powerful beyond our wildest dreams. All we have to do is think it, dream it, and we can do it. I hear his message. I get it."

I look at Miguel, my eyes wide and glassy. "Yes, you get the message. You are all so capable and powerful," I tell them.

May my students set their goals in high and healthy places. And may they embody the true meaning of perseverance. I'll help in any way I can.

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