Hopeful Words

Today I was looking through my journals, hunting for some inspiration.  I wanted to find an ideas list I had started earlier in the year.  I didn’t find it, because I got sidetracked by something else.

In my first entry of this March writing challenge, I wrote about some conversations my class had at the beginning of the year when we were trying to develop our charter.  Unfortunately, while I was writing that first slice, the only artifact I was using, was the finished charter (the product). I remembered that we had had spirited conversations about what words we wanted to highlight, but I was actually a little fuzzy on the particulars (the process).  Tonight, in my search for something else, I found my notes from that first class discussion, so I think I need to amend the record.

One interesting aspect of this conversation was that it took place on the second day of school.  I could tell that these kids had done a lot of talking and listening in their previous classes. I started the conversation with the simple prompt:  How do you want to feel in this class this year? A mini debate happened when we tried to trim our lengthy word list. One student argued for “fearless.”  I thought that sounded like a worthy ideal. Another countered with “Courageous.” They were too similar to both make the list. One would have to win. This led to discussion. The fearless person said that it would be best for a person to feel that they had no fear of sharing a piece of writing or something personal at morning meeting.  They said they didn’t want to have to feel courageous when they shared something. To me this made a lot of sense. I was impressed that they knew to use an example to show what they meant. Another student pushed back, though. Here’s what she said. “I think that fearless is a trait.  It’s how you are.  But courage is a choice you make. It’s a choice we want to be able to make.”  I don’t know if I completely agreed with this statement, but it definitely made me pause.  I know I was impressed with the sophistication.

The other argument centered around the words “respected” and “accepted.”  Several students had raised their hands to support the word “respected.” They said that it was something everyone should be able to expect in a class or the school.  But then another student raised his hand and said that he thought “accepted” was an even higher goal. “I think respect is okay, and I think it’s a good way for everyone to feel, but I think it’s even better if you can feel accepted.”  He went on to explain it this way. “Accepted is better than just being respected, because to me it means that someone sees who you are, but also says you’re okay, or even cool, like ‘you’re on our team.’ That’s an even better way to feel.”

The final word the class chose, came from a word I thought was shared as a joke, at first.  One boy had offered “extraordinary” as a way that he wanted to feel. He said this right after someone else had suggested, “awesome.”  I imagined that in a pool of words like “safe,” “respected,” “included,” “appreciated,” and “accepted,” a word like “extraordinary” couldn’t possibly make the cut.  Then a student who had been quiet for most of the discussion raised her hand. “I think extraordinary is a really important word. I think it should be on our final list because no one wants to feel like they’re just ordinary. That sounds like you’re just average. I think everyone wants to feel like they are not just plain ordinary.  They’re extra-ordinary.”

For me, the spirit of this conversation has carried through the year.  I won’t pretend that we’ve always succeeded in helping everyone to feel accepted, courageous and extraordinary, but I take the words as part of that worthy ideal.  It’s similar to the way I recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, knowing that it’s not a statement of how things are in our country, but an affirmation of what we hope to be.  Inside my head I’m always thinking, “…indivisible, with (the hope of) liberty and justice for all.”

I didn’t find my list, tonight, but I did find inspiration.

7 thoughts on “Hopeful Words

  1. Just… wow. I love the way that these kids talk and think about words and aspirations. I love that you took notes. I love that they clearly have been given these tools in previous classes. And then, the way that you value their conversations by listening, reflecting, revising your own opinion and holding their choices close throughout the year. This is a class I want to be in. No, this is a class I want my children to be in. Love this slice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These conversations are amazing. I’m glad you found these notes. Again, your charter is brought to life. The reasoning and thinking offer a glimpse into the complex minds of the students. They didn’t just go through the motions, but it feels, like there was passion in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is great you made notes to be able to find them! I do hope the list turns up. I have a list I am searching for too but cannot remember which notebook it is in! Love this slice!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so impressed by the conversation on the second day of school! You are right that they showed that they were accustomed to talk, but I feel that your attitude and acceptance also made the conversation possible.
    I find serendipity often while slogging through the mess on my desk. I’m glad your search yielded this slice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Absolutely fascinating to hear their thinking, their reasoning! I find so often, when we probe for the why behind their thinking our eyes are opened to the possibilities! Kids come to us with so much more than we could ever imagine! I think its beyond fabulous that you found your notes, you documented the conversation and turned it into a slice! To think that all happened on Day 2! WOW! I can’ imagine what the closing year conversation/reflection will be! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s