Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible
Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration

Passion and Purpose: Bravery in a Broken World

Passion and purpose have been on my mind over the last week and a half.  I don't mean the drive-in-movie-theater kind of passion with purposeful hot necking. I mean the kind of passion that propels one through life.  I had two experiences in the past two weeks that brought this to mind. 

Experience #1
I was asked to present on balanced literacy for an undergraduate class at Madonna University. I schlepped a boat load of stuff to share with the class, sharing my leadership/social justice focus I've been developing since August.  We read a fantastic article by Ron Ritchart about the five R's of curriculum design, and engaged in some pretty meaty discussion using the Sentence-Phrase-Word Routine.   For two and a half hours, students thought about visible thinking strategies, curriculum design, concept mapping, and unit planning.  At the end of the night, many stopped to express their appreciation and the impact of our session together. 

What they didn't know and what I wouldn't tell them for fear of contaminating them with my cynicism and exhaustion...was what they gave me: A view into their passion and purpose.  They engaged earnestly and fervently with the content, me, and each other.  There was a light in their eyes.  They smiled.  They asked questions. They thought out loud. They challenged each other.  There was passion and purpose. On the way home that night, I thought about the undergraduate education student I had been. Those Madonna students gave me a great and priceless gift: A glimpse of who I was and still am when I peel back the layers of sadness and stress.

Experience #2
I was out of my classroom, attending a day of Cultures of Thinking learning provided by our county's ISD. I am very excited about these learning days because they are with the author of Making Thinking Visible and Cultures of Thinking, Ron Ritchart. In the afternoon of this particular learning day, we were given the opportunity to tour the fabulous alternative vocational education facilities and classes offered at the session's venue.  While on our tour, I met Mr. Bobbee. Mr. Bobbee teaches Auto Body Shop. 

As we entered the body shop classroom, the smell of barbecue hung in the air.  Two of the students said, "We'll get Mr. Bobbee for you."  We could hear the affection in their voices as they called for him.  Mr. Bobbee came to greet us, explaining that the staff had had a barbecue and that he had brought his grill in for his kids, so they could have one, too.  He proceeded to lead us around his classroom, explaining what and how he teaches his kids.  He called them "his kids."  There was pride in his voice. He beamed when he talked about how they find employment.  Mr. Bobbee had passion and purpose.

'Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do...Maybe it's the same with people,' Hugo continued. 'If you lose your's like you're broken.'
                                                                                   Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret

This past month has probably been one of the hardest months of my 24 year career in teaching.  In the face of third grade retention legislation, district initiatives, shrinking resources, and the election coverage, I've struggled to maintain my purpose and passion.  I've listened to colleagues across the country talk about how election coverage has impacted their students.  I've heard about a boy who threatened a girl with rape.  They were fourth graders, by the way. I've heard two children talking about what a witch Hillary Clinton is, and that they're glad Donald Trump won.  I've listened to students bully other students for repeating pro-Clinton or pro-Trump sentiments that they've heard at home.  I've watched the nightly news and seen hatred scrawled across school and church walls.  I've wondered if my students are watching.  I wonder if they are scared.  Just recently, I watched  students from a local school district in our state chant, "Build that wall! Build that wall!" at minority students in the school cafeteria. 

It takes my breath away. I feel broken.

But then I remember days like this:

We are sitting on the carpet, reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.  And we've come to the part when Hugo talks about people losing their purpose.  I ask my kids, "What is your purpose?"  One by one, students begin to share.  We talk about how when we do something we are meant to do, we often lose all track of time.  One student says that when she dances, she feels outside of herself...that her purpose in that moment is to inspire others.  Another students says he thinks he is meant to take care of animals, because they love him...and he is attracted to all animals. He thinks he has a way with them.  By the end of the session, I was teary-eyed. 

The Day After
The day after the election, I went to work with purpose...a fierce and determined passion.  Together, my students and I revisited Helen Keller, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Sojourner Truth, Rachel Carson, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa.  We revisited their biographies, their words, their lives.  We remembered how they each had a sense of purpose. We read The Other Side by Jaqueline Woodson.  I listened to "my kids" talk about symbolism.  I listened to them talk about theme. I listened to them talk about acceptance.  

In that session, I felt like I'd stepped outside of myself and that my purpose, in that moment, was to teach my kids how to be human.
Until next time,

If you're interested in resources to support social justice and leadership themes. Click on the pictures below:
This one is a freebie!

I've teamed up with some other inspirational educators. Be sure to check out their blog posts below. May you find a renewed sense of purpose and passion.