A Day in the Life: Ben Light


Gregorio Zuluaga

Mr. Light gives a lesson to class 5D.

Gregorio Zuluaga, Photography Editor

If you’ve been part of the Columbus School for over a month, then most likely you’ve seen a strange man walking around the place with a worn Wayuu bag on his shoulder, followed by twenty kids everywhere he goes.

This man is no wizard, he’s Ben Light, or simply Mr.Light as his students know him, the 5D homeroom teacher at the Columbus School. A teacher that’s been passionate for learning for his 13 years at the school, and his unique teaching style reflects that. His room is colorfully decorated with books and posters of many shapes and students greet him with a smile.

“The power of an adult is unconditional love and forgiveness. And so I really try to do that. You don’t have to do anything to earn my respect, or earn my care and likeness for you as a person, no matter what you do.”

Mr. Light’s Daily Routine

A typical day for Mr. Light begins at 4 AM when he wakes up in his home in El Retiro. He works early in the morning preparing for the upcoming day and eats breakfast with his family at 5:55, they’re out the door by 6:40 for a 25-minute-trip to the school.

He gets to room 5D at 7:20 to greet his students at the door. Students sit down on desks around the whole classroom, then they take their laptops out of their backpacks or borrow Chromebooks from the back closet.

Light does not give too much homework and prefers students enjoy their life outside of school with their families. So he gives them all a chance to do the work inside of school, that’s how a student’s day begins in room 5D.

Like the modern teacher Light is, he uses online programs like IXL and Reflex for math, and Lexia for English. Instead of calling it “homework”, assignments in 5D are called “targeted practice” as it’s only required for those that are struggling in class or decide to not do the work with the time they’re given.

Kids also get what’s called the “Fast Five” daily quiz, which has five questions each on different subjects related to what they saw in previous days or the topic they’ll learn about today. After students are given time to complete their work, at 8 o’clock sharp music plays over the classroom speakers and kids prepare for Morning Meeting.

Light reads a letter to his students every day, telling them about what he’s enjoyed doing with them in the past days and giving them an inspiring message. He also includes spelling mistakes, with two similar words one written correctly and one incorrectly for students to debate about, as well as introducing two new words they might not know which they also talk about together. Even though students don’t realize it, they end up talking about ethics and karma based on Mr. Light’s words.

After Morning Meeting, they play the “Six Corners” game by moving from corner to corner and rolling a dice to see who’s been eliminated each round.

“Donkey shorts!” said Mr.Light, and the whole class started moving like ants on a picnic mat. It’s something Light likes to say when done giving an instruction, as it lets the kids know when they can start working. The story, he says, is that when he was teaching 1st grade, he said “dankeschön” to a student (thanks in German) but he understood “donkey shorts”. Light thought it was hilarious and has said it since.

Students work on their climate project using the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals. They must include some kind of innovation or novelty they find online. Light moves around the classroom, dodging the cable extension spread across the floor, helping his 20-something students.

Class 5F joined 5D to study math. Today’s topic is “skip counting,” something similar to multiplication tables. Students take turns shouting out the next number in the multiplication table of 9.

Most of the rest of the Light’s schoolday is spent wandering up and down the elementary school, making sure students are where they’re supposed to be, and eating lunch whenever he finds the time.

The life of a homeroom teacher is not an easy one, especially because while the fifth-grade students leave at 2:30, that’s not the end of the workday for Light. He stays until 3:30 organizing his classroom and attending meetings. The rest of the afternoon is spent with work and the kids, Light reads 25 pages a day before going to sleep at 8:30.

Mr. Light’s Systems in 5D

Light has a very different approach to teaching. His methodology includes small, engaging, and thought-provoking lessons or workshops where students can make use of their critical thinking.

He allows students to not do their assigned work and make mistakes, so they can learn from the consequences, preparing them for Middle School.

Morning Meeting, including the daily letter and discussion, math class, playing dodgeball with students; these are all frequently seen throughout the day.

For students, the most memorable activities are the daily “Fast Five” quiz and the “Big Big Quiz” at the end of every week. They’re meant to make learning a long-term effort, expanding the concepts students learned before beyond their single-lesson context.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every part of our school, and 5D is not an exception. According to Light, his least favorite part of the day is making kids comply with rules too abstract for them to understand. A teacher’s job during the pandemic has evolved into making sure children wear masks inside of class; while they hang out with each other outside of school not wearing masks, being in the same room with each other, the same car, they get to school, windows open, a large outside area and they have to cover their faces. It’s something students struggle with, Light said.

Mr. Light’s Philosophy on Education

Light enjoys reading about education and philosophy; he has an ability to realize what he reads about into practical, relevant policies.

Light’s teaching style is one of great patience, care, and dedication to the wellbeing of his students. When there was a fight between students, Light not only went and gave them a consequence, but took the time to talk to them about what they did wrong in a comprehensive and sympathetic way.

“I think what separates us from children is I don’t think children are capable of [giving unconditional love]. I think it’s very hard for a child to accept someone that’s different (…) Teachers must model that for our students so that we can teach them how to do it. Without models, it will be very hard for them to develop that aspect of humanness on their own,” Light said.

Light works hard to help his students develop as people. According to Light, maturing as a person is largely a process of understanding other people. Even if you do not agree with what they do, you understand that they make their choices based on what they have lived. It is this philosophy he models for his students.

“I love reading. I love writing. I love social studies and science. I don’t find it difficult [to be interested in a topic]. I think part of that is just I’m a very curious, interested person who just believes everything I say, which is nice. Someone taught me that there is no such thing as a boring topic, just a bored person. The boredom comes from within, it’s a choice.” Light said.