The Students of Ponsonby meet a Human of New York

Who doesn’t look back on their school days and remember their favourite teachers?

Thirty years from now, when the kids of Ponsonby Primary Room 10 reminisce about their school days, one of the teachers they’ll think fondly of is Mr Graham.

Because Mr Graham is one of those teachers who, because of his love for his job and commitment to his students, goes way above and beyond the call of duty. That commitment is reflected in the way he puts as much emphasis on growing their EQ as he does their IQ. For instance, one of the students is chosen as the greeter every morning, and has the job of shaking the hands of his/her classmates as they enter the class. Their homework is to keep gratitude journals. It’s an exercise in communication, appreciation and plain old good manners that many people would do well to emulate.

For a recent project, the children worked on developing their empathy by understanding and appreciating others. One of their findings from the project was to always be kind, as you never know what the person in front of you is going through or has been through.

To help bring this to life, Mr Graham and his students chose a story from Humans of New York - a photoblog and book of street portraits collected on the streets of New York City - to discuss in regards to empathy, understanding and compassion. The story they chose was about photographer Laura Jane Petelko, who tells of her struggles, rejection, survival and success. The children were so engaged with her story that they were motivated to write poetry about it. Mr Graham was really impressed with their efforts and got in touch with Ms Petelko to share their poetry with her, and he and the class even video called her to thank her for being a wonderful inspiration to them.

Ms Petelko was so touched that her story had connected with the kids that she chose to share their poetry on her blog

She has over 50,000 followers and a huge number of them liked her post, commenting what a great teacher Mr Graham is and what a beautiful story he and his class created. Sadly, Ms Petelko put the post up on the morning of Friday 15 March before the world learned of the horror that unfolded in Christchurch. Later that day she posted a message of love and empathy for New Zealand.

What a story - a story that Mr Graham started earlier in the year, which then took on a life of its own as it merged with the story of Laura Jane Petelko. A story that the characters in it will never forget. (BILL HARRIS)

Two of the students' poems:
She just stood there like a lightbulb in a sea of darkness.
The mist fading away into the dark depths of the forest.
The waves coming back and forth like a boomerang.
Thoughts screaming through her mind
being alone,
not fitting in,
family issues.
Through all this pain
she knew not to give up
to stay proud
no matter what
She is a survivor.
O. J. Patterson

In life you don’t need a degree
to do what you love.
If you keep on standing
your heart does, too.
No matter what you go through,
it doesn’t matter if you do what you love.
J. de Marco

 #studentsofponsonby  #laurajanepetelko  #ponsonby