Ester, my wife, is a primary school teacher. She has always been extremely committed to her job. It shows in things like the deep care of her students and the availability to their families. I can see that every day. There is certainly no glass wall between her ‘children’ and her. I would have assumed that, over the years, you may detach from your job the same way that probably doctors or psychiatrists do. She does not. I can imagine the work of a teacher can be exhausting no matter what. But when your level of empathy is top notch, it becomes a heroic feature. My guess is she simply cannot help it.
It is rewarding, though. Every now and then, I get the chance to read a gratitude letter from a student, or a letter from some parents. They can touch you; they can break you into tears. We sometimes go through hard stuff; if, during those days, you find someone like Ester, who grabs your hand and helps you and your child walk through hell, and takes you safely out of the dark pit you’ve been trapped... that is something. Many lives I’ve seen her touch and change, and I can only begin to imagine the impact she’s had on that people. She is so good at this that my friends also rely on her on difficult times! She has a gift; and that gift is both a blessing and a curse, as she carries in her heart part of other people’s burdens. It is admirable that, despite the cost, along these years, she still shows the same commitment as the first day.
But this post happens on a Wednesday because she’s been featured in EL PAÍS educational series: “Aprendemos Juntos”!! She’s been featured because of her special dexterity on applying a learning methodology developed by Robert Swartz, one of the most influential thinkers in education. The method, Thinking Based Learning, relies on applying certain analytic or deducting patterns to a problem so that learning happens by... well, thinking. Those patterns include comparing two alternatives, brainstorming ideas, making decisions... they are scripted and children follow predefined steps, guiding them to a conclusion of their own. For anyone that went through an MBA, you’ll see a resemblance with the case methodology applied there. Learning happens because you are arriving at conclusions (together with your peers,) rather than conclusions being thrown to you on a textbook.
Ester won’t admit it, but I will here, that Robert Swartz in person was so impressed by her ability to apply the method that he personally chose her to demo it in this video series. So here’s the video that shows Ester guiding 4 of her students in deducting the differences between living in the city and in the country, and drawing the corresponding conclusion.
But if I have to pick something from this video, it’s not the fascinating method, nor the wonderful kids nor the implications of all this in our education system, not even how gorgeous Ester shows in it. It is that look in her eyes when she looks at those children. It is such a genuine expression of pride and appreciation. Put yourself in those kids’ shoes and imagine how fulfilling that is, how that invisible energy opens the doors of possibilities, of daring to try, of being capable. This is as powerful as it gets; it gives you confidence, it changes your perception of the world. How can something so subtle carry so much significance?
I’m not more proud of Ester today than I am everyday, certainly not more than those days when I get to have a glimpse of the impact she’s had on someone’s life... but this is certainly an achievement worth sharing, and I don’t have many chances to see her interact with her students, which I found absolutely fascinating.