Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lesson Plans Tossed to the Wind.

Wednesday, November 9th.  The Day After.  

It was pouring rain, and virtually everyone at school appeared sullen and sleep-deprived.  Given that the "Theme" in Themes in Literature this semester is Happiness, suffice it to say that my pre-planned "Activating Strategy" was pretty much DOA. After several more attempts, with side conversations between students bursting into larger class discussions, the lesson was called on account of disequilibrium.

We've all witnessed a sporting event "called" on account of darkness, lightning, or serious storms in the area, when someone in charge makes the decision to pull the plug on the plans for the day, in the interest of all involved.  The same works for teachers when conditions are not sufficient in the classroom.

We had a quiet discussion, exploring what we already knew from the wonderful Mr. Groff's AP Government and Politics class from the last two years.  There are checks and balances, the government moves slowly - sometimes too slowly - in making changes in policy and decisions.  The legislative branch of the government is notorious for its ability to examine a given situation from more perspectives than most people would ever consider.  It seemed that we could transition back to business as usual.  

Suddenly, we were back to square one.  

I don't usually have my phone on my desk, yet I caught a glimpse of a message from my aunt:  "It doesn't change who I am. "

It's amazing to me how inspiration comes when it is needed most.  All of my students have Chromebooks, and use Googledocs as their main platform for writing.  I asked them to open a new document, and to ask them to consider how influential any politician actually is on their day-to-day life, motivation or happiness.  Can anyone else influence who you are? If the answer is no, then write "It doesn't change who I am."

The free-writing began, and continued until lunch, about 20 minutes later.  In teacher-speak, this wasn't the way I had planned my day, but it was necessary to put aside the plans for the sake of the kids.  After lunch we posted 600 post-it notes containing happiness quotes and inspiration throughout the school.  (We'd been working on collecting enough to put one on every locker at some point, yet it was easy to see that they were needed on this grey, rainy day, where so many were so torn.)

What I hadn't considered was the impact of split decisions on students.  We live in the heart of Amish country, where there is a fairly even split between the candidates.  Even the supporters of the new president realized the ongoing challenges of such a close election.  High School students have friends, and align their support, often, with their parents or their social circles.  Students with friends in two camps are particularly torn on a day like November 9th.  How does one celebrate with one group of friends without offending another group?

I awoke this morning to find a text from Ellen, thanking me for the unplanned Googledocs activity.  She had continued writing well beyond the school day, finishing sometime after ten pm. This junior in high school had reflected upon her reflection, her day, her relationships, and her world, and shared her finished work with me.  By the time I'd read the first paragraph, I was ugly-crying, and spent most of today looking like a puffy Pufferfish.  

And I don't even care.   Because yesterday's experience was nothing like the lesson plans I had written, yet turned out to be the one of the most memorable of my career.  There are days when the lesson plans need to be tossed to the wind.

I am privileged and honored to be able to share Ellen's Thoughts with you, with her permission:

Ellen's Thoughts 
 
The President cannot change who I choose to love.
I am no different than I was yesterday.
THIS does not change who I am. THIS does not change who my family is. THIS does NOT change where my hope is to be found. THIS does not change me.

Today, I choose to laugh onstage tonight. I choose to push all that I can out of my mind.

I choose to rant, then be still. I choose to recognize that my God is an Awesome God. I choose to remember what I’ve been telling myself all along: there is more to people. People are not just Republican or Democrat. Heck! That’s only for American people anyway! There is so much more to this WORLD. Languages, culture, LIFE.

I choose my friends, NOT the President. I choose when I will stand up and when I will sit down. I choose to tell my younger sisters and my future children, whether they be my students, small group of youth, or my children's children, that they CAN choose.

Choose Joy! I am not happy on this day. I am joyful that one day this all will end. “This too shall pass.” I praise not the man or woman, not the system or its followers, but the joy and peace put before me.

I choose because I can. I have power over my thoughts, my actions, what I choose to say tonight, what I choose to express and how I will go on in the future. I choose. And this isn’t ABOUT pro-life or pro-choice, rather about my ability to be human with grey areas and confusion. I have a choice.
    Help me to choose life, dear God. Life-giving words, life-giving actions, life-giving encouragement, life-giving friendships. I choose it. Lead me to following through.

But most importantly, I choose to remember how HE loves. My Savior. The one who IS my identity, IS my Lord, IS my hope. It’s not even that God is testing us or whatever people say; it is the choices we’re making and I’m choosing joy. I will not be happy with this election and its results, but I will choose to not let it break my character.

I am more than the checkmark next to Trump’s face when I googled the results this morning. I am more than the T-shirts and hurtful statements. I am more than the questioning of my friends. I am more than the magazines printed and the speeches given. I am SO MUCH MORE.

I am changing, evolving, growing, moving, learning. I am.

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am.”  (Sylvia Plath)