This post was written on October 12.
Though I'm teaching standards (grades) 4-8, there's a special activity I do only with my standard 8 students. At the end of every class, I give them a writing prompt, and they have 10 minutes or so to respond. I collect their work, which I read and make corrections, give feedback, etc., and return at the next class meeting.
Last week's prompt was "tell me about the best gift you've ever received." I expected disjointed sentences about a bicycle, or a necklace, or something similar. This was the first paper I read, by a student named Reshmi:
The best gift I ever received was my happy life. My parents love me. My god give my parents my birth day. I am very studying very well. I am doing for anything my parents. I love my parents very much. There are very nice persons. I love, I love, I love.
Is it just me, or was there no mention of a bicycle?
I've never considered myself overly materialistic, but some attitudes are so ingrained within us that we don't even realize we harbor them. Sometimes it's unexpected moments that reveal to us our own hidden structures of thought. Having such a moment, I sat in the Buchanan staff room, awestruck. And even then I thought, "oh, that's sweet, now bring on the bicycles." But the awestruck feeling persisted, as I had expected to read paper after paper describing the joyous receipt of some much-desired item, and yet response after response mentioned gifts like friends, family, and happiness.
Reshmi will never know that though I taught her about superlatives that day, she reminded her teacher of an infinitely more important lesson--that material things can never replace the people and blessings that are the truly important gifts in our lives. She reminded me that I'm thankful for my happy life, too.