As per usual, the school staff is constantly trying to make the environment a better place for the students. We’ve experimented with various things over the years and we’re back to where we were about 10 years ago: attempting to instill some sense of morality and ethics in the children. (You know, the stuff that their PARENTS should really be working on like dependability, integrity, responsibility, respect etc…) The current approach is definitely less preachy and in your face than past attempts at this. It’s subtle and incorporates a reward system like the random piece of candy for not being tardy to classes, a pizza luncheon if nominated by a teacher etc… The end game is the hope that students will take ownership of their environment, and have some respect for the school, their peers and themselves.
I have no problem with any of this. Our school is a nice place; our students are lucky to have the educational opportunities and environment offered. I work with awesome colleagues, and with only a few exceptions that I would like to sell to the gypsies, I work with great kids. Therefore, I’ve done what has been asked of me in regards to this year’s efforts to create a respectful and positive student environment. (I now need to look up another word for environment…atmosphere?)
Part of the program is Feel Good Friday; we watch the regular announcements and then share a “feel good” video. The videos can be suggested to the committee by anyone and then the chosen one is passed on to the rest of the staff. In theory, the videos are supposed to tie to the quality concept of the month like respect, for example. We’ve watched a lecture from Kid President (a definite thumbs up review from my kids), a story about a little boy and his cardboard arcade that went viral, and a football player with an enthusiastic post game interview. My class looks forward to the videos. This week there were cries of:
“Where’s our feel good video?”
“I hope it’s better than last week!”
Last week broke their hearts. We watched a story about college freshman basketball player Lauren Hill’s wish to play one game with her team before she dies from an inoperable brain tumor. She is expected to live until December…maybe.
They gamely watched the seven minute video then looked at me wide-eyed and said, “We don’t feel good.”
I tried to be the adult in the room and agreed that yes, it is a sad story, but that the take-away is the idea that she is persevering and is positive despite what she knows is coming. She’s making the most of the time she has left. They agreed that this was true, but still dragged off to lunch not feeling good about life.
This week’s promised video was about jellybeans. That’s got to be fun, right? Since the videos are approved by the administration, I don’t generally have the inclination or the time to watch them before class. All I knew was there were jellybeans.
Unfortunately, they were sad jellybeans. They were jellybeans that made us question our own mortality. I assume that they all tasted like black licorice. Blahhh.
Ze Frank who usually brings us amusing things like True Facts about animals and “Sad Cat Diary,” had done the math on how many days make up the average human life span then gathered the equivalent number of colorful jellybeans. Stylistically the video is amazing and must have taken a long time to produce. The colors and quantities of jellybeans are used to create illustrations about how we use our time in the world. For example, he starts with the perspective of the 365 jellybeans for your first year and forms a number one. The video goes on to illustrate how many days we use up sleeping preferably next to someone we love (Nope. Bumming me out on that one, Ze), how many days we use up on grooming and other “bathroom things,” how many days on our commute to work how many….and then I left the room.
I went to another teacher and said, “Email me the singing dog video now! My kids are going to be tying nooses by the time this is over!”
I got back in the room just as the video had gotten down to a shot of one remaining yellow jellybean and asked, “What if you just had one more day? What are you going to do today?”
They looked at me and whispered, “Please let us watch ‘Sad Cat Diary.’ It’s funny at least.”
They had had the same reaction as I did. We’re all wasting our jellybeans. These thoughts are already in my head most of the time and don’t really need to be reinforced with sugary nuggets. What am I doing with my life?!
I like my job which is taking up a lot of my jellybeans, but I don’t have the illusion that I’m changing the world with it. The reality is that we all need to work in order to afford to live comfortably. My reality is that my job is the primary place where I have interaction with friends. Unlike most of the people I work with, I don’t have an immediately available pool of local family or friends to socialize with outside of work. It’s pretty much me and the cats on non-school days. But that’s a lot of my jellybeans. I’m not even wasting my jellybeans by sleeping next to someone I love. I sleep with four cats and most of the time the furry little bastards don’t even fulfill that part of the contract.
My students and I may very well stop pooping, grooming, and sleeping because it wastes our jellybeans!
I understand the point of the video. I know that considering and evaluating your life choices is purposeful. To quote Madonna quoting Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” As an English teacher, I know that looking at man’s mortality is one of the great themes of poetry and literature. However my brain then wastes jellybeans worrying about how I’m using my life. It’s more depressing to me personally than it is inspirational. My students seemed to feel the same way.
“We don’t feel good.”
We promptly watched Loca the singing pug who said “flaming” and not “fecking” in the version I showed. No Irish swearing for us. I assume that Loca has some dog version of cerebellar hypoplasia given her balance issues. There! Look at the wee, happy, singing pug who enjoys life despite her issues. Couldn’t that be inspirational?
We then watched “Sad Cat Diary” and cried because we were laughing so hard, not because we were sad about our jellybeans.
***p.s. Please don’t fire me because I don’t like jellybeans!