I look back fondly on my days in the classroom and miss the interaction with teenagers every day. If the classroom still offered me the opportunity to really incorporate life lessons in with scholastic advancement, I think I would return. Young people learn so much more when they are allowed to do so in a creative manner, and it mystifies me that the "powers that be" have trouble comprehending that sitting in straight rows taking practice tests will ALWAYS equal sub-standard scores.
I remember ordering a set of "Julius Caesar" classic comic books one year and bringing it into my basic skills tenth grade World Literature class. These kids had never been introduced to Shakespeare, and it was not part of the basic skills curriculum. We spent two weeks reading Shakespeare and working on related projects. They each read roles from the comic version, and I would read some of the most famous soliloquies from the book itself. They loved every minute of the time spent on Caesar, and I was able to share the various themes, figurative language, and important messages with a very receptive audience. Years later a student from that class returned to find me. She is now successful in her chosen field and wanted to tell me what those weeks of Shakespeare meant to her. She explained how amazing it was for her to sit with her friends from advanced classes, and explain what Caesar meant when he said, "Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once." It was a favorite quote of mine and had become a favorite of hers.
Princess Di inspired me with her idea of random kindness, and every December, my Public Speaking classes were given a "pay it forward" assignment. I explained that carrying out random acts of kindness would benefit them in many ways. First of all, the feeling that one gets when he/she makes another person's life easier is phenomenal, and second of all, karma will see that some day, when you least expect it, someone will indeed do the same for you. These teens had to perform an act of kindness and present a speech about it for a midterm exam grade. I defy anyone to sit through those speeches and lump all teens as "thoughtless hoodlums" again. There was a sweetness about most of these acts that made me want to be a better person. One boy painted his widowed neighbor's house, and one boy began calling his grandmother once a week...and talking as long as she wanted. One of my girls, a cheerleader, invited an often bullied classmate to eat lunch at her table. This actually started a long term friendship that neither expected. I could go on, but you get the idea. This was always a much complained about, and then a much loved assignment. Hopefully, it was a lesson learned and maybe these young people are still doing random acts of kindness as they go through life.
Following the theme of young people, I reviewed a children's book this week. Every now and again I come across a children's book that seems special, and I felt that way about Jeremy Billups' book, Bearded. There was a wonderful simplicity to it, and it is a fun read for young children.
On a more somber note, Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp is a thought-provoking book highlighting the feelings of desperation that infertility can cause, and the modern scientific miracles that many turn to when faced with fertility issues. This well written novel centers on two families, and their stories are told in alternating chapters. While emotionally wrenching at times, I found this book difficult to put down and recommend it as thought provoking and entertaining.
As always, full reviews of both books will follow this blog.