Celeste DuBois: Pedro's Gift

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Learning is what teaching is all about, but sometimes the role of teacher and student can get reversed. Celeste DuBois has this Perspective.

Students aren’t the only ones learning in a classroom. Teachers are learning too, sometimes from their students.

In 2014 in Oakland, I taught 9th grade remedial reading to some of the too many kids reading near 3rd grade level. My most memorable student was Pedro, excellent because of his attitude and behavior as well as his work. Many good kids in reading classes aren't happy in school because it hadn't served them well. Yet Pedro didn't have that angst. What really got my attention, though, was the way he moved: calmly, deliberately, one step at a time. When the bell rang, Pedro closed his binder, and one by one put his things away.

I’m not exaggerating that Pedro changed my life. I admit to often trying to do too much. I find myself with myriad things in my hands and multiple thoughts in my head. Watching Pedro day after day, his manner became a balm. I started to check myself when I felt rushed or frantic. I came to call this physical patience. When approaching the car or the door with keys, purse, water bottle, bags, books and more, I could stop and realize that I can only do one thing at a time. I might have to drop something before going on.

It's akin to what my husband calls having soft hands when catching a softball; the gentle acceptance of the ball rather than frantic grabbing. It’s a spiritual shift toward letting go of having to be in control.

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I will be forever grateful to this sweet boy, now a young man, for teaching me this. I call it Pedro’s gift. Wherever you are, Pedro, thank you.

With a Perspective, I’m Celeste DuBois.

Celeste DuBois is a retired Oakland public school teacher of French and Reading Strategies.