Journal of an English teacher, meditation teacher, puppeteer
After a nice Sukkot vacation, school has resumed. First day shock slowly gave way to good times for all. Second day resumption saw me bringing in some puppets and playing ‘Creep’ to introduce the theme of being an outsider.
We’re going to study Ray Bradbury’s story “All Summer in a Day”. This wonderful story takes place in a future school in Venus, where rain lets up for only 2 hours every seven years. One young pupil named Margot still remembers her life on Earth where the sun was commonplace. When she shares her memories, the other pupils can’t deal. They’re jealous, they’re disbelieving and they bully her.
She, the outsider, suffers their cruelty. (The ultimate cruelty, they —spoiler alert—- lock her away so that she completely misses the 2 hour sunshine.)
How can I turn up my own pupils’ empathy? How can I help them feel Margot’s predicament and more, towards other victims of bullying?
I began the topic asking them to look up the definition of the word ‘bullying’. Then I asked if there was anyone in the room who hadn’t experienced being an outsider. If there was a person among us who didn’t know what it was to be different, new, not a part of the majority. No one could say that they had never felt being the ‘weirdo’, as the song ‘Creep’ puts it.
I gave my own experience of being an outsider when I was young – way shorter than all the other kids, younger than the others, and my black hair, curly on dry days, frizzy in humidity. It seemed like all the other girls were tall with long blonde hair. Plus, I was the only Jewish kid in my class for many years. The only one who didn’t celebrate Christmas or Easter. I helped friends learn their catechism, but I never participated in their first Communion. Outsider.
Outsiders. We find our way.
We become writers. Actors. Puppeteers. We are the musicians. Artists. Or readers. We retreat inwardly. Or become highly extroverted. We are the comedians.
Fat or thin. We find our way. We become what we become. We survive. If we find other outsiders, we can form clubs or secret societies.
Discovering one another, we bloom with new energy, find new impetus to be creative or proud to be an outsider.
And now, I ask: how can I set up a situation for pupils to celebrate their own energy? How can I turn up the chi in the room?