When I left school on the Friday before Winter Break, my lesson plans for the week of my return were printed, 3 hole punched, and carefully placed in my trustworthy black binder that sits on my desk.
I had prepared for each lesson by writing personal examples, creating presentations, recording the presentations (more times than necessary…sucks being a perfectionist), and uploading them all to Schoology (the learning management system used by my school district).
I was ready!
But then, Monday, January 2nd happened.
On that particular Monday, the bell rang, signifying not only the start of the school day, but the start of a new year as well. Students trudged down the hall, fiddled with the locks on their lockers for longer than usual, and plodded into homeroom.
It was eerily still. Kids didn’t even storm the comfy couch/chair area when I announced it was time for Monday announcements. (Which were, for some, viewed through closed eyelids.)
By 8:20 I knew it would be in everyone’s best interest to rethink my plans for the day.
Coincidentally, earlier that morning, a co-worker had stopped by my classroom to share an article with me.
“The Need to Read” by Will Schwalbe (which I had felt a need to immediately read).
Change of plans!
“Looking for Themes in the Trouble of Text” would have to wait for another day. We were going to ease back into the whole “school thing”.
I was not going to merely teach; I was going to inspire!
They were going to read. They were going to annotate. They were going to think. And they were going to share their thinking, doggone it. (And whether they were aware of it or not, they were going to learn something. Something valuable. Something bigger than…school.)
I introduced the piece (deliberately being quite vague). Then I gave instructions. Read. Highlight areas you catch yourself thinking. Jot down your inner voice. Be ready to share: “Why do you read?”
When we reconvened, I projected my annotated copy of the article on the document camera. And I told them their copy should look. Just. Like. Mine.
(“After all…I am the teacher,” I reminded them.)
A few looked panicked as they compared their annotated copies to my own; but, for the most part, my announcement was met with snickers, snorts, and a few eye rolls. (l love it when they understand sarcasm.)
And what followed in each class was a vibrant discussion about reading! Some provided answers they thought I wanted to hear, but others were brave enough to share from the heart. And when they did, others became more engaged.
One line from the article created a lot of discussion:
Books “demand that you put aside your own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s.”
In the world we currently reside, it’s way too easy to fall into the trap of believing that it’s ‘my way or the highway’.
Doesn’t really matter what the topic is…
politics, religion, finances, and my favorite…food.
So I began thinking…
What if we were all 5’4” tall, weighed 140 pounds, had blue eyes, and wavy, medium brown hair that fell to the top of your shoulders? And so did everyone else. (Oops…sorry guys…you would be 6’ 3” tall, weigh 205 pounds, and have blue eyes and blonde hair.)
What if we all dressed the same? I’m thinking black leggings, Ivory Ella long sleeve t-shirts, and converse tennies, or jeans, Under Armour sweatshirts and Nikes. (You know, middle school cool.)
What if we all acted the same? (Think of the scene of the bouncing balls from A Wrinkle in Time. And if you haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time, you really need to.)
What if we all liked the same sports team? (Go Packers!)
And ice cream. (So Delicious Snickerdoodle)
elected political figures. (I’m not going to go there right now.)
Wouldn’t that be lovely? It certainly would cut down on the nastiness on FB and Twitter.
And what if we all had the same values?
And the same passions?
Just imagine. No conflicts. What a beautiful world!
But would it really? Be a beautiful world, I mean.
I don’t think so.
There is beauty in differences. Think about it.
Differences challenge us. They should make us think deeply. They should provide opportunities to learn, and grow. And if necessary, they should encourage us to change.
But right now we are letting our differences divide us. We aren’t always thinking. Sometimes we are just reacting, or following…without thinking.
We need empathy. We need to agree to disagree. We need to realize that forcing our own morals and values onto others doesn’t change them. Often times, it creates a larger rift.
We are all different.
And that needs to be okay.