Teachers & Students: The Heart of the Community--Aline Garcia-Rubio '93

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Upper School science

"Sometimes all it takes is just reaching out"

From the Spring 2010 Caller
I respect students and listen to them. I listen to whatever they want to talk about: their dogs, their assignment. Spending time and looking each other in the eye shows that I care about them. And I really do care. I really get to know them in those after-class moments.
 
Sometimes it’s very natural and things just click with a student, and there’s an easy interaction. It’s harder when there’s friction. If there is, I make sure that I go and sit with those students. When students are active in the lab, I’ll stand next to them and interact with them as humans, beyond the content of the class. It doesn’t take much, and the students appreciate it.
 
I tell students little stories about who I am. They get a sense of me as a human being with a family, so I’m not a distant figure. I make myself vulnerable in appropriate ways. In my advanced class, in genetics and environment, we were talking about skin color. I showed them photos of my two children—one is blond, and the other is Mexicanlooking. We can talk about my kids in terms of biology, and it helps them explore who I am. Once we had some crickets escape, and we all chased them together. I wasn’t the all-knowing leader, but someone who could share in the humor of the situation.
 
I’m very deliberate. My students’ success depends on it. If we don’t have a connection, they won’t do well. If there’s not a connection, I ask my colleagues about the student. I continually watch my students’ affect. If I see changes, I tell them, I see you’re motivated, or tired, or angry, or sad, and ask what’s going on. In science their lives don’t come out as much as they might in other kinds of classes. But I do watch them, even if they don’t know I’m watching them in that way.
 
I try to be a part of whatever’s meaningful to students. I go on the senior trip, which is our last chance to cement those relationships. During Campus Day, or on trips or Winterim, we make the best connections. Together we have enriching experiences that invite conversation. Outside of class we let our guards down in different ways.
 
I feel proud to have a class that has six minority students in it. I take ownership of that. I tell them it’s cool. We create emotional connections and become part of each others’ lives. I think those are the common, invisible threads that strengthen the sense of community and identity. Teachers work deliberately to create those invisible threads. Sometimes all it takes is just reaching out to someone.
 
When he was first at Catlin Gabel my son felt anxious about walking to the curb alone. But he soon felt safe in the knowledge that people are watching out for him. His 1st grade class did a poetry unit, and he wrote a poem, “I Am From.” He wrote, “I am from Mexico, I am from Hawaii, I am from Portland, I am from I love you, I am from Catlin Gabel.”
Aline Garcia-Rubio ’93 spent her junior year at Catlin Gabel as an exchange student from Mexico City. She holds a medical degree from the Facultad Mexicana de Medicina, Universidad La Salle. She has been at Catlin Gabel for three years and previously taught at an international school in Mexico City and at Punahou School in Hawaii, under former Catlin Gabel head Jim Scott.