Halloween fell on a Saturday this year- the infamous year of 2020. It was now the Friday before that weekend, and I was walking down the hallway with Lauryn (still my favorite student) beside me.
Our school decided to celebrate Halloween by letting students go trick or treating at decorated ‘stations’ set up outside the building (all of it carefully set up to comply with social distancing requirements). Teachers and other building staff had done their best to put together something fun for them knowing that many cities in the state were not doing trick-or-treating this year.
Everyone was wearing costumes. I was wearing my ‘Robin’ costume as Lauryn (cat-woman) walked down the hall with me to grab a speaker to bring outside.
“I’m sorry Mr. J…it was me that gave Principal Sam your story,” she said; getting the truth off her chest as we had a few minutes alone.
I had figured as much after thinking about how everything went down, and decided now to tell her, “I know you did-you don’t have to be sorry.”
Not mad, or surprised, just matter-of-factly she replied, “Maybe I shouldn’t listen to what adults tell me to do so much, huh?”
“You said it, not me,” I smiled through my mask hoping she knew I was not upset.
Continuing I said, “Everything happens for a reason and I should probably thank you Lauryn,” grabbing the small speaker to bring outside I went on, “After getting called out by the Principal about my story I had a breakthrough…I realized that I would have to start opening up to you guys if I wanted to make our class work.”
There was no way she could understand what I meant by this, so she asked the only logical question, “What do you mean?”
“Just wait until you read this week’s article…you’ll get it.” I told her.
Knowing me well enough to accept I would not elaborate now-and would have only told her to be patient-she changed the subject, “What are you doing for Halloween tomorrow?”
“My town is still doing trick-or-treating, so me and the three boys are going together…I’m pretty pumped…I haven’t taken the twins for probably five years,” I said.
Lauryn had learned of my situation by now: I was a father to identical twin boys that were now twelve, and one boy that was now six- turning seven, on November 1st.
Having been married twice, I had two ex-wives that made getting all the boys together on holidays like this very complicated.
Probably realizing this in here head, Lauryn spoke her truth as we walked through the door back into the cold outside air, “Mr. J, your life is more fucked than I can even imagine isn’t it?”
Laughing at her honesty, I responded with a laugh, “You have no idea Mama…”
Week 8- (10.30.20) – “P.A.I.N. through Worry”
“HOW could you change the world?”
After writing this question on my white board I slowly turned around to look out at my students. A familiar silence filled the room. What was I expecting them to say?
When I am trying to make a point, I often do this. I ask questions or do something that I do not fully expect them to understand at first. Hopefully my students will learn this soon enough….
Last week’s article was about ‘ANGER.’
Make sure you have read it before moving on, as there are spoilers below:
After reading it, you may be wondering how I feel right now.
Well, I need you to recognize that just like every emotion that makes up this class on P.A.I.N., feeling angry is natural. Last week’s lesson (article/story) showed you what happens when this emotion takes over.
The fact is, when I was young, I was known for my temper. My past is full of events that lead to walls being punched and words being thrown at people that were not very nice. Looking back, I almost always experienced feelings of shame afterwards. I have since accepted that worrying about things done out of anger is inevitable.
Let’s be honest, looking at the world today there are millions of things to get angry over. In last week’s article I ‘stirred the pot’ by bringing up some of the things that are dividing us.
Well, let me try and defuse any conflict or controversy by telling you right now that I made most of it up.
There was no ‘Anonomous’ person who said those things to me. In fact, there is no ‘Blog’ at all.
Let me explain why I did what I did….
In the first few weeks I have done the following things with these weekly articles of ours: First, I tried to bring us together. Then, I tried to get us thinking. And last week, I tried to get us all invested.
Now that you know this, PLEASE keep the following things in mind as we proceed. If you are going to enjoy what we are doing here then you must do three things 1) Ask questions about what you read, 2) Be patient with trying to understand, and 3) Have faith that everything will make sense at the end of this class. You are, in fact, part of this story now. My hope is that when we are done here you will be inspired to take action in some way to change things, this world needs you!
Alright then, “What would happen if you could change the world?”
After being called “dumb” for implying that someone could change the world, I returned to my white board and wrote the slightly different question you just read. “Imagine you could,” I said, “what do you think would happen?”
Again, nothing but silence and blank faces filled the room. But I could tell that I had them! I could see their sleeping minds waking up!
To be honest, this is all I ask for as a teacher. To inspire my students to think, to wonder, to ask themselves, “What if?”
These types of discussions are my favorite as you can never expect where they will go. That is the beauty of encouraging people to use their imaginations (a skill we no longer use enough).
Truthfully, I had no idea what they would say.
With no one speaking, I began to think that having them write down their thoughts in their journals may be the best way to proceed with the lesson. But then these words broke the silence…
“You would piss a lot of people off.”
The words were not spoken loudly. And they were muffled because the student that said it was in the back of the room with a hood on, and their head down. Like usual, I had simply assumed that this child was not listening (you know what happens when we ‘ass-u-me’). But when this student muttered these words the entire class heard exactly what was said.
And so it began, a wonderful discussion about why so many people would be upset if we COULD change the world. The hooded figure, Candace, said it best, “We would have to convince everyone to think like us. Which would mean convincing countless people that their way of thinking is wrong. Who wants to be told that they are wrong???”
I love being a teacher! It is a great feeling to be presented with questions by students that you don’t know how to answer.
So, what do you think? Are they right?
“But Mr. J, I’m worrying about how to change my own life. That is hard enough. I really cannot be bothered with something so hypothetical.”
I understand that.
But, let me ask you this: Does human conflict affect your ability to find peace in your life? Do you find yourself worried or ashamed over what is happening around you?? If so, doesn’t this hinder your ability to change your own life, to find the ‘happy’ you are looking for???
If it does, then I can think of only one solution…
We must change the world, sorry.
Week 8- Question for Reflection:
Can you change the world?