As I strolled around the classroom this morning reading my student’s Slice of Life entries in their “old school” writer’s notebooks, I found my eyes staying a little bit longer on one. I muse when he writes, “[I[t was just that kind of weekend. I didn’t go play outside or go play video games with my friends.” He scribbles on about enjoying time by himself.
My whole being is smiling back at him when he says, “what?”
I giggle and label this description of his weekend by responding, “so you had some ‘Me Time’.” He looks perplexed back at me, but I continue to share my joy. “You know the time when you can do whatever you want? The time when you can do absolutely anything by yourself? Like dance around and sing out loud, like watch whatever movie you want, like eat any snacks you want?”
He nods back at me, and I can see a light bulb go on in his mind. He responds with, “yeah, and read anything you want.”
Why yes, of course. Read EVERYTHING you want!
Who was this person? Why did (s)he do the things (s)he did? How do people remember him/her? These are all thoughts my students and I have pondered over the past couple weeks while deep into our Biographical study of a vast number of celebrities, sports stars, and mystery people to which I am also learning about.
I started out this learning experience excited to understand better a man that has had a profound impact on South Africa and the world, Nelson Mandela. When he died I collected newspaper articles, collected several books, and watched the movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. As I explored more into his life, I felt more raw emotions than I could ever have predicted, especially when comparing the written word of his autobiography to the movie.
Who decides what are the most important details of his life?
I have found myself dreaming of going back in time to be there when he was a young lawyer leading peaceful protests inevitably turning violent to see, hear, feel what he went through so I may justly express through my written word what a powerful soul this man embraced.
As I think about my craving to be there with the man I am putting so much time into learning about, I question whether my students feel the same way. I want to find every meaningful detail of his life to understand the ripples that have had such a major impact on humanity. This process makes me think about producers creating the movie Lincoln. Out of the whole of Honest Abe’s life, what were the most important details? How could they sum up his life in 150 minutes?
These men and women we are studying have had a life long lived. My only wish is to express their lives passionately and accurately so whomever stumbles across what I deem is important in their lives will serve their soul.