From Duluth, a reminder that the kids are alright

Photo: JP Rennquist

Unquestionably, there are problems in schools and problems between teachers and students and parents. It’s important that those get discussed in the public sphere.

But it’s also easy to let the coverage push aside other realities that are also important to acknowledge. There are pretty great kids, pretty great teachers, and pretty great parents in the state’s schools.

In Duluth, JP Rennquist tells us, the kids in one school collected teddy bears to give to the police department, to be given to young kids who are often innocent bystanders to the kid of things cops see on a daily basis.

I am a teacher assistant working with Jennifer Fabbro’s classroom at Denfeld High School. Mrs. Fabbro happens to be one of those genius-level educators who meets kids where they are at and then takes them to the next level. Over the last several months the students ran a Teddy Bear Drive where they collected over 500 stuffed animals from Denfeld High students, faculty, staff and community members.

The kids in this class know what it is like to be disoriented, afraid, and in need of emergency assistance. I think it is noteworthy that they created a project to try to offer some comfort to other scared children.

It is an example of practical, project-based learning. A lot of hard and soft academic skills go into pulling something like this off. Our room is categorized as DCD, which basically means that the kids have significant learning disabilities, and many of them have significant other impairments that affect their learning experience. Educators like Mrs. Fabbro totally flip the script on situations like this, focusing on what the kids can do. And they really did a lot.

It wasn’t just Mrs. Fabbro’s class that put this together; they had help from other students who come in multiple times a week as “mentors” in the W.I.N. period, which stands for “what I need.” Denfeld administration created this period where students throughout the school choose a class that meets their needs and interests. We get some really high flyers visiting the class during “WIN” periods – honor students, athletes, student leaders and etc. But the kids all work together as, just kids.

A kid who may find something like athletics easy has a lot to learn from a fellow student who has a degenerative bone disease. A kid who is destined for the Ivy League and flies through academic work can learn a lot about him or herself by helping someone else who is still struggling to learn the alphabet at the same age.

Anyway, I think this whole project is pretty fantastic.

The police and paramedics came by to pick up the teddy bears yesterday.