Archive | March, 2012

“What Color Is Elmo?” and other Life Lessons

30 Mar

What color is Elmo? Red, of course. Well…sort of. In another sense Elmo is black. Well…sort of.

Every Monday I begin my classes with a life lesson. Sometimes these lessons are serious; sometimes they are silly. I make time, however, to share with my students beliefs, questions, and perspectives I hold dear. I carve out regular time to acknowledge that while I am their English teacher, I also want to help them live a happy and reflective life.

Most of my students respond really positively to this practice, and many even bring in their own life lessons. In their end-of-the-year reflections I am always so surprised by how many students refer to specific “life lessons,” ones that I have even forgotten. I only take five to ten minutes to present and discuss these ideas, but the habitual integration of things that inspire and provoke me seems to be a key component in creating a culture of trust and community within the classroom.

Recently I watched Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey and was so inspired by Kevin Clash’s story. I shared this clip with my students and added an optional homework assignment asking them to view and reflect on the film:

My main point to my students? Mr. Clash’s story shows that pursuing one’s passion is far more important than finding the ideal career path. High school students (especially the juniors I teach) can be so easily consumed by finding the right college and the perfect major. I want them to understand it is far more important to explore work that ignites passion and creativity.

Here are a few more links I have used in the past:

The Tamale and the Tire Iron

Indi Cowie, female freestyle soccer sensation, performs amazing tricks

EVEN MORE LIFE LESSONS: At one of the wikis I maintain you will find a list of the various life lessons I incorporate into my class. Please share some stories that inspire you. I always love learning what moves other people.

Defending Kony 2012

10 Mar

Chances are you have already seen this month’s most viral video, Kony 2012, a polished and provocative thirty-minute film produced by Invisible Children that seeks “not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.” As I write these words it has already received 63 million views, and I’m sure that number will be much higher by the time you read this. If you have not yet seen the film, take the time to watch it before you read on.

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