September 6, 2018
Currently, the clock on the stove in the kitchen reads 10:06 PM. I sat down to write this wire at 8:45 tonight. My first draft of this letter started with a quote from Dead Poet’s Society. “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that I must constantly look at things in a different way.” The quote definitely identifies the goal of my letter, but it misses the mark.
As I reflect and think about the events of the past week, I search moments in time that capture my message. I remember a Facebook memory that I scrolled past as I searched for an update on my college friend. Currently, Katelyn battles for her life. Ovarian Cancer. The memory is a quote. “The life you live is the lesson you teach.” Yep. That works too. But still, no real anecdote from which to build.
As I continue to type, the clock now reads 10:16 PM. My mind begins to wander. I jump back to the quote from Dead Poets Society. I think out loud, “I wonder what my students would do if I told them to stand on the tables at lunch tomorrow.” Hunter looks at me in horror. “Please don’t!” Clearly, that child knows me well.
My mind jumps again. Shoot, I just wasted 4 minutes thinking through all the possible disasters that could ensue by asking middle school students to stand on the desk. I can immediately identify in my mind 15 students that will jump on the table, no questions asked. I can see the look of horror on the faces of cafeteria employees. I can hear the voices of my faithful rule followers questioning my direction. 10:23 PM. I scan back through my paragraphs.
I think of Katelyn and the quote in my Facebook memory. Her life lesson is unwavering courage as she battles ovarian cancer for the 2nd time. I reflect on my own choices and my life. I wonder what lessons I taught today. As I look back at each paragraph, I see a theme I did not intend.
Yes, I want my message to challenge each of us to live a life that teaches lessons of character. Yes, I want my message to challenge each of us to “stand upon our desks” and look at life differently. But, something occurred in this letter that I didn’t intend.
Have you ever had those nights that homework seems to last forever? Has your student ever struggled to “just get going”? Have you ever found yourself repeating the demand to focus? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I encourage you to stand up on your desk and remind yourself to look at things differently. I would bet dollars to donuts that on the nights that you hear these questions coming out of your mouth, your student finds themselves navigating a million thoughts as I did tonight.
On those nights, I encourage you to direct your student to start with the most straightforward assignment they have. This is often math. Implement a brain break that includes what I call “blurt outs.” Say a word like stress or school or friends or hallways or class. Ask them to say the first word that comes to mind. Allow your student’s response to guide the next words you choose. You will be amazed at the communication you will create and the insight you will gain, and they won’t even realize how you did it.
Honored to Serve You All,
Character First: Wisdom
Food For Thought: What Teenagers Need From Us More Than (Almost) Anything Else