Summer vacation is three weeks away, a mere twelve class days, but for some reason I find myself mired in EOTSYS – End of the School Year Syndrome. Yesterday was softball and errands and we finished the day playing a fun game as a family. I did not do a darned thing having to do with school. I started to write, but busied myself with other tasks, and now I sit on the deck enjoying the morning and watching Ivy patrol the yard for squirrels. The maple trees are dropping their seeds all over the lilac bush is in bloom, and everywhere nature is working, everyone except me.
The past week presented opportunity for me to reflect and think. Most weeks do, but this week was unique. I began the week sharing the quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s the part in the story where Alice encounters the Cheshire cat at the fork in the path and she asks the Cheshire Cat which direction to take.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
— Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland (Alice, #1))
If you don’t know where you are headed, it makes no difference which path you take. With summer vacation looming ahead, I challenged my students, it is important to know where you are headed. I’ll be revisiting this theme in the coming week and asking them to think beyond sleeping late and spending time with their friends. It’s enticing to sit back and relax and pause, but there is more, much more. Certainly, all work and play is no fun either, it’s all about balance and perspective.
Life is good, but we often focus on the opposite, that ‘Life isn’t fair.” Though it is never too early to learn that “Life isn’t fair,” we should focus on the goodness of life and the opportunities that challenges present.
I have been reading Wonder by R. J. Palacio to my Language Arts class. I read it over Spring Break and really enjoyed it. It’s the story of August a ten year-old boy born with a serious genetic facial deformity. His deformity is so profound that it frightens people. August has never gone to public school, but he’s going to school for the first time. Wonder tells August’s story as he begins school for the first time from multiple perspectives – his, his sister Via’s, and several of his friends. It is a great story and I have my seventh grades on the edge of their seats as I read aloud. My style of read aloud is different, I often pause to ask questions and get them to engage in the story and ask questions about the story to encourage them to connect and relate to the characters – to empathize with the character’s experience and learn. Reading aloud my way takes longer than just reading the book, word for word. We are in the middle of the story and my students are concerned we won’t finish before school is done. We will finish, I’ll make certain of it.
Reading Wonder with to my students moved me to change my class project, which was due last Monday. Since late February, I have been taking a graduate class about Language Arts and the Common Core. The class met Monday nights and ended last week, but I am not done. I decided in the middle of the week before the project was due to change course and re-write the project with Wonder as the focus. I have a bit more to finish, but I have all the pieces in place, I just need to make it happen.
Then Tuesday, we learned about the passing of an eleven-year-old boy who attends our church. He had been battling brain cancer for the past four years. O new him from Sunday school, we knew the family well as they have children our children’s ages. We are in one another’s bubble, so to speak. The visitation was Thursday afternoon and the funeral, Friday. We arrived Thursday evening, to discover the line stretching around the block as folks took time pay their respects. We waited patiently and slowly the line wound its way into the church and we saw the photos, the flowers, and heard the stories of how this young boy, knowing that he was going to pass away, remained upbeat and positive. He kept his belief that he was going home and maintained his faith in God and God’s plan. Life is good was his mantra and he truly lived it. Parents shouldn’t have to attend their children’s funeral or plan them, but that is how life works out, sometimes. Life isn’t fair, it doesn’t always work out the way we want it to, but we have a choice about how to react and respond. Life is good, indeed.
O and B went to the funeral Friday and O reported it was the saddest day ever, B reported the service was beautiful. W stayed home and worked on schoolwork, and I went to school and taught. Friday night was reserved. Though, we are all suffering from EOTSYS and are looking forward to summer and all that it brings, we are processing the news in different ways. I cannot I cannot shake the idea of that young boy’s faith. Life is good.
Tomorrow would have been my dad’s 80th birthday, we celebrated my mom’s 75th birthday last month in Houston, and Memorial Day is next week. There are twelve school days remaining and much to do. Time is marching on, it always does. I know where I am headed and I know the direction I need to take, I just have to get moving. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, because Life is Good, even when is seems it is not fair.
What are you going to do today?