Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Let Me Sing For You

When I was working at Red Cloud, one of the volunteers was a tall, lanky Virginian with a quick wit and an incredible dedication to his students and the Lakota people. Tim McLaughlin taught English in the middle school; he was also a great basketball coach and a writer.

After three years volunteering, Tim went out to New Mexico and began to teach at a Native American school there. He also got a Master's degree. And in there somewhere, he began to work with students on poetry slams -- long form original poetry presented in public competitions.

He and his students have been doing this for some time now, and just recently they were written up in the New York Times. Along with the article, the Times provides recordings of three of the students' performances. I want to recommend them to you, in part because I'm just so proud of Tim and all he's done. Like his peers from the volunteer program at Red Cloud, Tim reminds me of what generosity and openness can really look like, and what can be accomplished at their service. Pilamayo, Tim! Pilamayo!

I also have to give a shout out to my brother Scott in this regard. Scott has spent the last fifteen years coaching state championship quality speech teams at Glenbrook South High School in the suburbs of Chicago. He's actually at the national tournament with one of his students right now.

People bemoan the quality of education today, and of course there are reasons for concern. But you meet teachers like Tim or Scott or my aunt Eileen and cousin Mike, my friend Tim Moran, and you see that in the midst of all the clouds there's a lot of hope and possibility, too.

I'll be traveling to Melbourne to begin my second experiment tomorrow. I'll be working with young people at a drop in center. We'll have to see how often I can post. But I'm going to try and post some tomorrow before I go.

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