In October, a new student, Manuel, came to our school from Honduras. On his third day, the substitute said I was coming to take students to the computer lab. When the class lined up and he was to go with them, Manuel looked at me with fear in his eyes. He crawled under the desk, watching me as if I was marching them to their execution. Then, the substitute said something to him in Spanish. Slowly he crept out and got at the end of the line. As we went down the hall, I kept looking back to be sure he was still with us. The other students seemed to pay little attention to him, and I wasn’t even sure if he understood much English. When we got to the lab, the students took seats at their computers. They were working on addition in a program called Math Workshop.
In this program, the graphics put them in a bowling alley where they were given a math problem. After solving 10 correctly in a row,the gorilla bowled a strike for them and the animated pins made a funny comment. Most of the students had completed two or three sets of ten, when Manuel had done over 70 problems correctly. By the end of the half hour session, he had finished the whole set of 100. His classmates noticed and suddenly he became as big a hero as any winning Patriots quarterback in their eyes. Manuel walked proudly back to class with a huge smile on his face.
Editorial comment: How often do school staff members take time and use resources to recognize talent? This is how to build self-esteem, not through social-promotion, false praise and “being fair.”