Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sometimes Students make the Best Teachers

Photo Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Four years ago, one of my most timid students stood up in front of his class, cued the slideshow and said:  "Aung San Suu Kyi: Freedom Fighter!"

After three long days of presentations, I'd that glazed look of passive observation stapled to my face.  When this presentation began, I snapped out of my haze and sat at the edge of my seat.  Minutes passed like seconds as I listened to my soft-voiced student unravel the tale of Aung San Suu Kyi's life.

Her father was a Burmese politician who helped free Burma from British control by leading the National League for Democracy.  His dedication to Myanmar made him a national hero.

In 1988, after years of studying abroad, Aung San Suu Kyi returned home to help her ailing mother when violent demonstrations broke out against the 25 year reign of the military junta.  Raised on her father's beliefs, Aung San Suu Kyi would not turn away and vaulted into a position of leadership, becoming the voice of democracy and hope.  She stood up for freedom of speech and privacy.  For her efforts, the government has had her imprisoned or under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

Released today, Aung San Suu Kyi walks in the sun once more.  But many are skeptical about what her future holds.  Perhaps imprisonment again.

When I listened to my student's presentation, I heard Aung San Suu Kyi's strength come through in his voice.   Having captivated the entire class, he spoke out about a woman he'd never met and shared her struggles in a militant world he'd never visited.  As he spoke, he became something bigger and better than a middle school suburban kid.

The only shame was that I couldn't give him more than an A+.

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