Education Opinion

Start With What You Know…

By Jim Randels — February 16, 2008 1 min read
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Many of our students are dealing with friends and family members who are serving out of the country in the U. S. military. Kanisha Daniels, a junior at Douglass High School, wrote this poem as part of her thinking about this international situation that hits close to home for so many of our students.

Our students at both schools studied this poem, working within two SAC methods: 1) the whole approach of collective thinking and revision through classroom dialogue that we have been sharing in the last few blogs and 2) our teaching method of building lessons out of writings that students bring us. After Kanisha read this poem in class, other students began writing about similar themes, and we began introducing course readings that included fiction by Tim O’Brien; poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks, Owen Dodson, and Yusef Koumanyaka; essays by James Baldwin; and historical materials on race riots following U. S. involvements in war.

In this age of high school reform and program development, we still believe that the best teaching involves not just bringing good programs, lessons, and opportunities to students but also building those three dimensions of education out of the lived experiences and writings that students bring to class. That’s why our motto at SAC is “Start with what you know to learn what you don’t know. Start with where you’re at to get to where you want to go.”

Questions For My Grandfather
Kanisha Daniels

The snow on the old pine tree, like an x-ray
searching out some kind of cancer.
And the best I can do is wonder
just exactly what you’d say about it.

I was seven, almost eight, bouncing on a knee.
And if I’d known anything about war not played with
flimsy, dull-edged cards around an old, extended
kitchen table every Sunday or two, I might have asked.

I bet it changed people, war, I mean.
Killing all those mother’s sons.
Shooting sounds like a small town’s fireworks.
And everything I’ve read about.

It’s cold here, and my footprints explode
into this inch or two of snow
and then disappear, lost with each gust of wind.

And if I could, I’d ask him how a kid
no older than me can get sent to hell
and live to talk about it.

The opinions expressed in Student Stories: A New Orleans Classroom Chronicle are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.