In a small town, there is a small school, with small students who are establishing GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Early in the school year, a teacher and her students illustrate a character. The teacher has her students take turns using their creativity to draw specific features. It’s a fun activity as they may draw spaghetti for the hair, or buttons for the eyes and so on, in regards to facial features and limbs. The students decide a gender for this character and then give a name. When all is said and done, their teacher asks her students if this created individual would be welcomed into their classroom.
This classroom activity is conducted by my dear friend, Michele Lee, who invited me to begin sharing my story with her second grade students, nearly ten years ago, in connection with the Great Expectations program. In such time, her team of fellow teachers valued my story in such a way, that I have had the privilege of sharing it with the entire second grade class at Central Elementary for the last several years.
The presentation varies minimally year to year. I have used a clip from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and asked the students why Belle loved the Beast and not Gaston. Those little second graders don’t hesitate in answering that the Beast is nice and Gaston is mean. It emphasizes the value of our heart over our appearance. Another illustration utilized is the book, The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin. The students hear how the scarred girl endures the comments from her cruel sisters, but in the end, the Invisible Being’s sister sees that, “though her skin was scarred, her hair burnt, her clothes strange, she had a beautiful, kind heart.” But my favorite book to use is Little Quack’s New Friend by Laura Thompson. This book portrays a cute group of five little ducklings and a green frog that is obviously different from the rest. Four ducklings state their reasoning for not wanting to play with the frog, but Little Quack chooses to play with the frog regardless. In the end, they are all playing together and happy about their new friend.
Each year, I share the details of Jon and my motorcycle accident. I share pictures of Jon and me, so they will know him, as this is his story too. I show a picture of me in the first grade, before the accident. I show them pictures of me standing up for the first time after the accident, having physical therapy and what I looked like when I returned to school in the second grade. And there lies the connection. I was the same age when I returned to school as the audience of students to which I speak. However, I returned to a school that didn’t benefit from a Great Expectations program. I felt a bit like that frog from the little children's book. Therefore, my emphasis in speaking to these students is on Expectation #1, “We will value one another as unique and special individuals,” and Expectation #2 “We will not laugh at or make fun of a person's mistakes nor use sarcasm or putdowns.”
Even today, I see examples that cause me to think, “We could all benefit from reciting the Eight Expectations like those young students.” We know that school is so much more than intellectual development; it encompasses social and moral development as well. But it doesn’t stop at elementary school, or junior high, or high school. It continues on everyday that we live and work with those around us.
It’s for reasons like this that I have great admiration for the great teachers who set such great expectations; truly making a difference!
Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (NLT)
~~~August 21, 2013 at Central Elementary~~~
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