Blog Your Blessings: Pennsylvania
I am always looking for stuff I think my students might like to read. I have found good material in The New York Times, Wikipedia, movie reviews, print news stories, travel brochures....If it's there to be read and it's interesting, it's fair game. I want my students to latch onto the fact that reading is a real world activity and that reading everything they can will enrich their lives.
While my daughter and I were in Pennsylvania, I grabbed a copy of a 146th Gettysburg reenactment newspaper because it was full of stories about life in the 1840s. I looked forward to horrifying my students with the news that there could be a 30-year age difference between a husband and a wife. Or that some women dressed in drag to fight in the Civil War, that Lincoln was neither the first nor the only speaker at the commemoration of the battlefield when he delivered his address..
I was delighted when my students read the Department of the Interior's brochure on Gettysburg and discovered that General Meade's headquarters was "a messed up farm." I enjoyed watching them read and take in the fact that more than 5,000 soldiers died in an hour in the battle called Pickett's Charge. It's was good to see them grasp that violence begets death; that choices come with consequences.
But I was happiest when a student who had also been in Pennsylvania over spring vacation asked me if I'd use her material on the Flight 93 memorial in class. I was delighted she knew she had good, worthwhile stuff. Delighted she wanted to read it. I was thrilled.
She gave me that material on Wednesday. On Thursday, when I had her twin brother in a different class, he told me he had been looking for the brochures but couldn't find them. I told them his sister had given them to me and that we would use it. He was happy about that, though he had no idea she had done that. Next day, he pulled a folded up document from his pocket as another source of reading material.
I was thrilled. To believe you have something worthwhile. To say, "How 'bout we do this thing?" To share it. To believe in the value of a text. That was my blessing.
And then at the end of class, the young man handed me a wooden token stamped with an image of the memorial chapel created in memory of the 40 passengers of Flight 93. I looked at it and complimented it and handed it back to the boy. "No," he said. "I want you to have it."
Later that day in the pile of classwork I had collected, I came across a paper that belonged to this kid. He had worked hard. That was a first.
Amen and alleluijah. Things happen. How and why, I don't know. But I think it had something to do with being in Pennsylvania at the same time. I am grateful to the Keystone State.