Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lady Liberty

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I've been thinking about this poem - well, this part of the larger poem, as I just learned. Sadly, I only knew the "Give me your tired, your poor ... " part. Until a very good friend of mine, a New Yorker, filled me in on "The wretched refuse of your teeming shore" section. Not until I looked it up before posting this blog did I know that there was even more. But I digress.

The reason I've been thinking about this poem is related to what I do ... teach. More specifically, a Special Education teacher. I find that in my profession, I'm often serving the 20%. For those of you not in education the 20% is the compliment to the 80% you should reach for "mastery". Ideally, once you've hit 80% you can safely more on to other material.

"But what about the other 20%," you ask? Well, that's where I come in. And this is where the poem began to ring true for me. The 20% is often the "tired, poor, huddled masses ... the wretched refuse". Now, no teacher would willingly admit to viewing any student like this ... but. These are the kids that often cause trouble, the ones who can't seem to follow the rules, those who threaten to pull the scores down.

But for me, these are just kids. Beautiful, amazing, talented kids who, for one reason or another, may struggle in the more traditional sense of education. I see them for all the potential they possess and not as "the wretched refuse". If they aren't succeeding, it's not their fault. It's because I've failed them as their teacher. For it is my job to reach them, to find a way to help them succeed, to make the material relevant to their lives.

So, in this small way, I connect with Lady Liberty. Thank you for giving me the torch to light my way.