53 years ago today, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson stepped on that small plane destined to land in an Iowa cornfield. When I was teaching in Nebraska, I showed the movie “La Bamba” to my beginning ESL class. (I know, I know, some may bristle about students watching a movie in school, but remember “listening, viewing and understanding” are part of the WIDA standards for ESL curriculum.)
My class contained mostly girls. They had no idea what had happened, so they were quite surprised by the ending. They kept asking me, “They die? They die?” When I nodded my head, the girls all started bawling. They cried so much that they asked for passes to the bathroom to reapply their mascara! They wrote these amazingly earnest reactions to the movie in their limited English. If they could’ve tattooed “I heart Ritchie Valens” on their shoulders right then, they would have.
This is one of the fun things about teaching: you often get to be the first person to show someone something. Once in a while, you have these really intense, beautiful moments where you discuss how a character in a book or movie reacted to a painful or scary or unfair event. And the students tell you what they think, for the first time about this topic.
I swear, I think one day, one of them is going to make a better decision in his/her life based on what we discussed in class. Maybe it’s fool hearty; maybe it’s delusional, but there are days when that’s all I have to keep me getting up in front of a bunch of middle schoolers and saying, “Okay, everybody. Today we’re going to get super excited about adverbs.”
What keeps you doing what you do?