Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Hallelujah School

"Mrs. Awe, when the bell rings at 8:00 in the morning, I get a headache." One of my heroes, a student with dyslexia says this to me one morning as he rubs his head and looks out at me from under his blond hair, hanging low over his eyebrows. Nevertheless, he finishes his work, scoops up his papers and swaggers out of my office. I hope his spirit stays strong as he navigates his way through the deep waters of education. He has a strong sense of self, a loving family and teachers who adore his winsome personality and incredible work ethic. He was, by the grace of God, born with the coolest smile and a natural proclivity to joy. He was also born with a neurological difference known as dyslexia. Learning to read was no walk in the park and although he has made much progress, a page of text renders him exhausted after 20 minutes. Uncanny comprehension skills and a vast amount of something I can only call insight carry him through the pages of text that are cast upon him day after day.

Sometimes, I wonder about our current practices and I feel badly for students who struggle and for those who are highly creative, intuitive, and open hearted, all things we don't formally assess! When I become disillusioned by state standards and mandated assessments, I am prone to daydream about my "resurrection" school. Like the Sadducees in today's gospel wondering about marriage in heaven, even whilst disbelieving the promise of resurrection, I question if in the perfect school, indeed if in heaven, there is a place for standardized tests.  My internal questioning led to a dream to start a resurrection school, named "The Hallelujah School for Creativity and Imagination."  It is a loosely formed dream, devoid of a funding plan or financial blueprint but borne out of a desire to have a school community that feeds the natural inclination toward curiosity and allows lots of time for discovery and questioning, along with the basic instruction needed to read and reason, with a least an hour for lunch and sitting under the broad blue sky.   And I wonder if like the Sadducees, I too am riddled with disbelief in the power of the resurrection. Jesus' answer, "He is God of the living" is meant for me too.

I shouldn't wait for the perfect day and the perfect school.  My Hallelujah school, or at least glimpses of it, may be for now, the strategies that are creative and imaginative and inspired. Whenever we act with hope and renounce despair we are living the resurrection, now and today. We live the resurrection when we create safe places for students and teachers to learn and grow. We live the resurrection when we fill the cracks between cultures and social groups with love and acceptance and we live the resurrection when we share our love of learning with students. We live the resurrection when we stop and listen, cry with those who cry, and laugh with those who laugh. Today is what we have and we are resurrection people.

With hope,

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