Like any married couple, we have our routines. One of them is that Heidi likes to sleep in on weekends, and so as the earlier riser, I take the dog out, make the coffee, and feed the pets. Our last dog, Isabel, was definitely a canine introvert, and since she was 13 when we lost her, I also remember her as especially compliant. Taking her out in the morning was a five minute job.
Lucy? Not so much. First of all, she's a dog's dog-- she knows all the many many dogs in the neighborhood by sight, and she never met a dog she didn't want to pull your arm out of the socket to greet. Peeing and pooping take a back seat to any other distraction, especially dogs, and did I mention we have a lot of dogs around here?
So... not only do I have to interact and be all neighborly with every other dog owner we meet, I also have to wait at least 15-20 minutes before my first cup of coffee.
Today was the last day for students to work on their persuasive technique commercials in class, and I spent a lot of it dashing from "set" to "set" to supervise them as the shot their scenes. Maybe it's not surprising considering the amount of commercial media they consume, but I have to say that they are much more creative, ingenious, and funny than I am, and overall the products look pretty good.
"Will you watch our commercial and tell us what we need to fix before we turn it in?" a student asked at one point.
"No," I answered.
"I think it's good," she told me, "but I just want you to check it."
"The idea of the assignment is for you to do your best on your own, so I can see if you understand the concepts of the unit. If I tell you what to fix, it won't be your own independent work," I said. "Use the guidelines and the rubric, and I will be happy to answer questions about them or the persuasive techniques."
"I would learn what I don't know if you told me what I needed to fix," she argued. "I'm a super-fast learner."
My students recently completed their "This I Believe" essays, and I tried to write one along with them, following the prescribed steps, just as I had them do.
Well... it wasn't easy! But here's what I came up with:
I Believe in Doors.
I must have been in my third year of college when it dawned on me: I would never be Miss America. It was the first time I heard the definitive click of a door locking forever in my life. Sure, doctor, lawyer, president were all still possibilities, but, whether I wished for it or not, it was clear to me that I would never walk down that runway in my sash and tiara, tears flowing, clutching my victory bouquet and waving as Burt Parks sang.
Of course, I didn’t wish for it, had never taken a step in my life toward it, but I felt a bit of sting realizing that there was at least one “never” in my life. What other nevers are there? I wondered then, but at 20, the list seemed pretty short. Now, thirty-five years later, I have walked away from many closed doors, some without remorse, some with more than a bit of regret, some I closed myself, some I never tried, and some were locked by the time I got there.
There’s a Chinese proverb that as an educator I find meaningful. It goes something like, Teachers open the door, but you must pass through it on your own. In my career, I’ve had countless conversations with wayward students encouraging them to be more mindful of their choices, if only to keep as many doors as possible open for themselves in the future. I won’t be standing there holding the door forever.
But at their age they still believe that anything can happen, and the connection between their actions and their choices is too abstract to grasp. They haven’t learned what sound a closing door makes, but that doesn’t mean that doors aren’t closing. And not all doors are created equal. The Olympians competing right now have dedicated much if not most of their young lives to achieve the opportunity to compete. That heavy door is open because they have thrown most of their young lives against it.
I once read that it’s a good idea take the opportunity to turn our minds to the present any time we pass through a doorway during the day. Whether we are coming or going or simply changing rooms, we can allow crossing a threshold to be a reminder to focus on the now. I like that advice, because I believe that it is in the present that we find the keys to the metaphorical doors we may encounter in the future.
Last quarter I had two of my students, whose behavior can be rather challenging, three times a day-- for intervention, reading class, and English class. Instead of wearing my patience ever thinner, I found that the more time I spent with those guys, the better-behaved they were. Go figure.
Now I only see them once a day, during the last class period that I teach, and I find myself aggravated with them much more frequently. Today I gave one of them a warning look and asked him to step over to my desk.
Before I could say a word, he shook his head and looked at me. "Don't you miss seeing me all the time?" he asked.
"Yes!" I told him, "I really do! Now, about throwing that paper..."
My students are working on a popular little mini-unit centered on media literacy and persuasive techniques. As the culminating project, they form teams to plan, write and produce a commercial for an imaginary product (which is in reality either a kitchen gadget or a combination of kitchen gadgets). In general, they love the activity because it lets them collaborate, and be creative and funny.
Before they start shooting, they must first come up with a concept, including catchy name and slogan, and submit it to me for approval. It's rare that I veto any idea, but the group that wanted to use "Grab your balls and start bouncing today!" was an exception. I did let "For 10 bucks and a nickel we'll give you a tickle!" slide, though.