“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.

2 Responses to ““What Color Is Elmo?” and other Life Lessons”


  1. Little Things Add Up and Other Life Lessons « Robin Neal - September 18, 2012

    […] I begin each week in the classroom with a Life Lesson. These lessons typically last five minutes, but my goal is to share with students some truth I hold dear. This week’s lesson: Little Things Add Up. […]

  2. Favorite Life Lessons for the Classroom | Robin Neal - January 29, 2014

    […] What Color Is Elmo? and Other Life Lessons […]

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