I want to share a conversation I overheard today that just tickled the heck out of me. I was in the lunch line at my school. Behind me are two students: Alejandro (pseudonym), a very quirky student who is a long term ELL (his family is from Mexico, but he grew up in NYC)and receives special education services for a learning disability, and Elli (pseudonym), an equally quirky, academically high performing white female student who has a “wise beyond her years” look. Both students might be considered on the shy side in their classes, but are not shy when they are around their friends. I’ve never seen them talk to each other before.

“So, how’s your…sports?” Alejandro says casually to Elli.

“Sports?” Elli asks, processing the question.

“Yeah, do you play any sports?” Alejandro asks again.

“Oh,” Elli says with a little smile, “I do trapeze.”

“Oh,trapeze? Did you ever break a bone?” Alejandro asks.

“I broke my wrist when I was little, but not doing trapeze.”

“Oh, so you did break a bone,” Alejandro says, nodding.

“Yeah,” Elli says.

“So, what is trapeze?” Alejandro asks.

“Well, it’s like a really high swing…”

The conversation continued from there, but I had to move and couldn’t eavesdrop any further.  I’m not sure how the tone of this conversation translates to those who don’t know the personalities of these students or the specific social world of my school, but I keep going over it in my head and it amuses me every time. It reminds me how much I love middle school students–their combination of awkwardness and sincerity is just the best.

It also reminds me of the joy of working with the very diverse population–racially, ethnically and socioeconomically – my school brings together. This kind of conversation that crosses invisible lines is not happening around the city as much as it should, because the city’s schools are generally so segregated. They are segregated by neighborhood, and the neighborhoods tend to be racially, ethnically and socio-economically divided. When schools are not “neighborhood schools,” they are usually segregated by academic performance through admissions screening processes. The most prepared (and usually affluent) students go to the most selective schools. There are very few schools that bring together such a range of students as mine does, and every once in a while it hits me how cool that is.


[image credit: fastestpossible.tumblr.com]

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