We all have a “lesson box,” either physical or imaginary, that we file our life experiences and lessons. Some cherished, some hidden, some learned the hard way. Regardless of our choice, these experiences and life lessons define who we are and who we will become.
As adults, do we find ourselves reaching into our box in times of need? Do we have times when our life lessons and experiences guide us through tough times? Life can be a great teacher. What about our children? Are they developing and defining their “lesson box”? The answer is a definite “yes.”
As parents, we all have qualities that we wish to instill in our children. Honesty, integrity, compassion, responsibility, trustworthiness, resiliency are just a few. To teach these qualities is no small task. They are difficult to teach, but grow with experience. We provide valuable opportunities to teach these qualities in meaningful ways. We also know that life will also provide these opportunities, both intentionally and unintentionally.
I have had the privilege to work in schools for 20-plus years. I have crossed paths with thousands of students over the years, with each having their own unique personality. I have valued the opportunities to provide “teachable moments.” I value more the opportunities of “learning moments” provided by students. You see, in life there is no such thing as a full “lesson box.”
In the last two months, Main Street School students have had the opportunity to add a life lesson to their “lesson box” — empathy.
We often hear the word empathy and stop to remember its meaning. Is it empathy or sympathy? Do we feel sad, or do we try to understand. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Can we feel their pain? Can we feel their disappointment? Empathy is often times the most difficult to teach. Empathy requires a person to step outside of their own experiences and see another’s view. Main Street students experienced a similar learning experience through the work of R.J. Palacio’s New York Times bestseller “Wonder.”
Spoiler alert! “Wonder” is a novel that provides a great lesson on empathy.
The main character, August Pullman, was born with a facial difference called Treacher Collins Disease. Throughout the book, Auggie struggles to convince others that he is just like them. His disease makes him different on the outside, but the same as everyone else on the inside.
The novel “Wonder” provides an excellent platform for teaching about differences and the need for empathy. Main Street sixth-graders spent a great deal of time in their language arts classes discussing why empathy is so important to understanding many of life’s situations. Students also learned about generosity. An anonymous donor paid for 212 students to see the movie “Wonder” at the theater.
Every day offers an opportunity to add to our “lesson box.” Give thanks to our parents, grandparents, teachers and all of those who provided us with opportunities to learn life’s most important lessons. A special thank you to life for helping us stock our “lesson box.” As August Pullman says, “everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.”
Local columnist Dan Bauman is the Main Street Intermediate School principal.