4 Things That Happened This Semester That Should Give You Hope For the Future

We have a lot of reasons to be worried about the future. (I won’t list them for you. It’s hard staying informed and involved without personally crumbling.)
But. One thing I’m going to do more of in 2018 to avoid personal crumbles in my quest to stay informed/involved is to practice
gratitude in a more disciplined way—to sit and list out each morning at least
three things I’m grateful for. I also
will take this opportunity to recognize that I stick with journals/ routines/resolutions
like this for approximately three weeks before abandoning them permanently. But
it’s going to be a really good three weeks. I can feel it.
To get myself ramped up for the New Year, I’m listing out
some moments from this past semester that have made me grateful and hopeful for
the next generation. Though I worry about the world we’re leaving them, I
rarely worry about the goodness of the young people. Here’s what I mean.
1) My students watched Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s TED talk,
“The Danger of a Single Story” early in the year, in which Adichie discusses
the harm in accepting stories about a person, group, or situation from only one
point of view. I had thought that the best part of this lesson was my student’s
initial discussion of the video, but it turns out that the best part was how
much it stuck with my students. Without my prompting, my students have returned
to the talk again and again, comparing ideas and stories to things they find in
literature, current events, and in their own lives.
When one student confessed to me that she had a crush on a
guy in school—one that I don’t have in my classes—my first question was if he
was nice to her (“Yes,”) and my second question was if he tries hard in school
(“Well… not really.”). When I raised an eyebrow at her answer to my second
question, she said, smiling, “Ms. ______, you aren’t making him into a
single-story kind of guy, are you?” I absolutely was, and I was absolutely delighted to be called out on it.
2) Another middle school teacher I know—we’ll call her Ms.
Todd—told me this story. A student asked why they weren’t doing Christmas
activities in her class, and she responded that, although Christmas is a
special time, anyone who celebrates Christmas would have more than enough
opportunities to do so at home with their families.
“But everyone in here celebrates Christmas!” one student
said. “Right?”
Another student spoke up that he was Jewish, so his family
celebrated Hanukkah. He was happy to explain to the class the origins of the
holiday and how his family celebrated. (In case it’s been a while since you
were around middle schoolers, acknowledging that you are apart from the pack at
age 13 is basically the bravest thing in the world.) Then the next day at school two
students brought him Hanukkah cards that they had the class sign. You can go cry now.
3) One day I found a note between classes that had fallen on
the floor. It said, “You seem sad. Is everything OK?” The other person had
written beneath that question, “No.” Then the first person had responded, “Want
me to draw a sloth for you?”
4) Ever since I taught my students about finding and evaluating
sources for reliability, they have developed this running joke (really, a
clever social criticism) that anything they disagree with or don’t
want to believe is fake news.
Me: Well, I would let you redo this tomorrow, but we’re
presenting projects tomorrow.
Student: We are? No—I thought they were due Thursday!
Me: Nope. It’s been on the board, my friend.
Student: The board is fake news!
Student: How long does the analysis need to be?
Me: Hmm, I would say ballpark 700-1,000 words.
Student: Fake news. You meant 100.
Me (laughing): One hundred words is barely a paragraph!
Student: Fake news. One hundred words is a book now.
It cracks me up every single time. They’re being silly when
they say it, but it makes me deeply happy to send a pack of kids into the world
who can read, think, and recognize absurdity for themselves.
There are more reasons, but I didn’t have space for, like, four thousand more.
Peace and joy to you this holiday season and in 2018. Let me know if you want me to draw you a sloth.
Love,
Teach