I got up early this morning. Ivy was eager to get out and survey the yard and I ventured onto the deck after her and heard the unmistakable crunch of winter precipitation underfoot. I stepped gingerly to avoid being an early morning casualty and coaxed her back inside. By that time, the coffee had finished brewing and I could enjoy a cup while sitting on the couch with Ivy in my lap.
Vacation was great, really great, in fact amazing. It was good to get back, but being away and kicking back was what we all needed. Our last day was amazing and interesting, all at the same time and our trip home full of surprises, at least for two of us, but that is not what I awoke for this morning to write. All week long and most of last week, I have wanted to write this post, but I haven’t made time. Each day, there has been another project, task, or appointment in the way of writing and then last Saturday night another piece of the puzzle developed and I struggled with it.
It is the fourth quarter and they are 33 days remaining in the school year much to do in time that will disappear before my eyes. Additionally, it is the time of year when we read my favorite seventh grade novel, The Giver. I have written about the book before, but mostly in a casual way, a mention. The book is a great book and most students enjoy the book because of the story. This year we are teaching the book differently from a different perspective using a thematic approach. In previous years, it has been part of the science fiction genre study, but education is changing with the nationwide adoption of the Common Core State Standards. It is good, but challenging. The curriculum is more rigorous – not difficult, but challenging kids to encourage them to think critically.
With the new approach, The Giver is taught along with short stories and articles around a central theme. Communities is the theme and the idea behind it is for students to decide which is more important – the individual or the community. The importance of understanding the story for comprehension is less important than reading the story for its message and theme.
The Giver is about Jonas, an eleven-year old boy who lives in a community where everything is controlled, managed, and safe. However, it all changes when Jonas turns twelve and receives his assignment.
Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back. (from Goodreads.com)
We have been reading and discussing the book in class and students discussed the community in an argument essay Thursday – they are piled beside me, waiting to be read and assessed, but Friday we followed Jonas along on the first day of his assignment and discovered a new twist, memories.
Before we even opened The Giver and started reading, we read several short stories from our anthology and watched an episode from the Twilight Zone – “The Monsters are due on Maple Street.” The episode aired in March 1960 and the episode’s theme is the community vs. the individual. It fits perfectly into the unit we are teaching and is a good illustration of our theme. In the episode, the power suddenly goes out in a neighborhood. With no power, phones, or radio the neighbors jump to conclusions and the action becomes intense. It is important to note that in March 1960 our world was much smaller and simpler than today and America was in the grips of The Cold War. The episode is below, if you want to go back in time.
Several students missed reading the story in class and watching the episode and I searched You Tube and learned that an updated version was available; it was produced in 2002 and aired March 2003. The update is true to the original I can distinctly remember the mood of the nation in late 2002 and early 2003 and can see something similar happening just about anywhere. The video is below. (UPDATED 7/31/2013 – the original video was removed 🙁 I left the original player and have added new links below to the same video – but in two parts)
Which brings me to last weekend, last Saturday night in particular, Saturday was an icky day I had a dentist appointment for a crown and afterwards I had a headache. It was cold and rainy, W had lacrosse and scouts, O had softball practice, and I had work to do. I did not much feel like working but by late afternoon, my headache was gone. We have lived in our home over twenty years and we know many of our neighbors. A few have kids our kid’s ages or their kids have sold us popcorn, wreaths, or athletic cards. We talk on snowy days and gather when the weather is warmer to talk, when we are raking leaves, mowing the lawn, or just outside enjoying the day.
A few years ago, the house next door sold and a new family moved in. We’ve met them but we don’t interact and the family keeps to themselves. They are not bad neighbors, far from it, their house is neat, yard kept well though they do not shovel their sidewalk but they are not the only neighbors who neglect a snowy sidewalk. They simply prefer to keep to themselves. Saturday morning I looked out into the backyard and noticed they had tent attached to their porch and it looked like they were having a party Saturday night.
When Saturday evening rolled around, my headache was gone, I was installing O’s new closet and the party began. They had a DJ and we could hear the music well. It was fun to work to the music. O went outside and sat in her fort on the play set listening and dancing. It got late and it was time for W and O go to sleep and rest up for the day to come. Really, all of us needed rest, but the party was still going and the music was still playing. I had gone downstairs and I saw a car pull up in front of our house with the familiar markings of an official visit from the authorities, then another pulled up. The two officers got out of their cars, walked up the drive and paid the house a visit. Suddenly, there was no music.
It was eleven o’clock Saturday night and somebody, a neighbor, had called and reported them. I was shocked, I had not called, I had no intention to, but someone did. It unnerved me and I was embarrassed for my neighborhood, my community. I mean, if I had had a problem with the music being too loud, I would have politely knocked on the door. Yet, someone did have a problem, did not knock, and made a call.
Sunday was the opposite of Saturday – sunny and warm enough to get outside and begin the process of restoring the yard and preparing for spring, and later summer. I knocked on the door to apologize for the community, but no one was home. B did see them and speak to them while were outside. We got a lot done and filled several trashcans with dead leaves and withered vegetation left behind from last year’s growth. I was still, I still am, troubled, embarrassed and I thought of it in the context of our community in the context of what I am teaching my students. I finished the day cooking out and we enjoyed steak, asparagus, and salad sitting down as a family, spent from the full weekend.
That was last weekend. This morning it is cold and wet. O’s softball practice this morning has been cancelled and tomorrow is scouts and W’s Spring Court of Honor. Today is grading, inside housework, and preparing for the week ahead. It is gonna be a great day, I know it. Nevertheless, I had better get rolling and make it count, make it worthwhile, put it into play. Making the Days Count, one day at a time.
What would you have done? Knock or call, why?