A Remembrance of Things Past

As you might notice by the date of this post, I never did conclude the posts from last summer once I returned to the US. Actually, I originally wanted to postpone these last posts until I was back teaching in Texas. I suspect that anyone reading this who has actually done work in rural areas in the Third World  feels something of a let-down, a sense of moral deflation,when returning to the United States. I teach in the public school system in Texas and my interactions with students here are often in such contrast to those experienced in Honduras that I have sometimes felt disoriented and professionally conflicted. For the first few years I took this to be an indictment of American schools. Now I realize that it is an indictment of me, that I had romanticized the Hondurans to a point where I could see neither them nor my students in Texas.

As I mentioned before, we actually handed out the XOs ourselves this past summer and that made for a wonderful day. Many of the students just couldn’t believe that the computers were theirs to take home. Many parents came and crowded around the door and windows; there was air of expectation and solemnity. We had written the names of each student on their laptops and these names were often quite long and involved. When called to come forward, the students stood proudly and respectfully. Village elders and school officials all made formal speeches. This has happened each year we’ve been in Honduras and I have come to anticipate this formality. This year I wrote my own speech and had it translated it into Spanish. Perhaps because it is a common element in their culture the students listened intently and I felt of one mind and heart with them. I now realize that the real miracles started after we left, when they took the laptops home. I realize now that the real impact will come in the everyday use of the laptops, in the lamplight in a humble house at night, in a classroom during a lesson, in a connection made or a subject explored. It is in all, of these moments, moments I will never see, that the magic will transpire and not in the festival-like atmosphere of our intense trips.

Of course the daily magic of education is what I am privileged to witness every day here in Texas. My students are just as proud, just as full of wonder, just as receptive as those in Honduras. Oddly enough. I had to travel into the mountains of Central America to discover what was right in front of me!!

With care,

Mark

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