Blog Your Blessings: Turtles, Dorks, Kids
On December 23, we had the unheard of thing: a full day of school. This, we presumed, was the central office's way of Being the Boss, of making us miserable because it could by stretching to the very limit our ability to manage a classroom.
Right after my belief in the value of hard work is my belief that I should not under any circumstances tolerate anybody's desire to make me miserable. I'll bleed for you, but I won't die for you. I like it here.
So. I showed a movie to my students on December 23. And not just any movie, I hasten to add. I showed a movie I like very much: "Turtle: The Incredible Journey." This is the story of a loggerhead turtle who hatches on a Florida beach only to travel the Atlantic and face nightmare after nightmare after manmade nightmare to mate and come back to Florida and wonder where her condo keys are. It's a Sea World production worth every one of its 81 minutes.
When on December 23 students asked if they could finish watching some dance movie they had started in another class downstairs, I replied, rather flatly, if I do say so myself, "No." I got the why-nots and the we-didn't-get-to-finish-its and the but-tomorrow's-Christmas-Eves that I expected.
I replied: "I am Uber Dork, and you are watching my movie." Predictably: "What's uber?" Over, like super, but uber. Call me Super Dork.
"OK. But miss. Nobody admits that. None of the other teachers admit that. You sure?" My students look out for me. And they worry I might miss some huge inner-city social cue. They care.
"Yes. I am a dork. I am sure of it and I am good with it and you are watching my movie."
And they did. And there they were in those first few minutes booing the ghost crabs and cheering on the hatchlings and asking me, "Miss. How can anybody make this movie and let it happen?" They were referring to those moments when ghost crabs snatched hatchlings and made lunch out of them. I thought of Ernie Pyle. Hemingway. Hell. I thought of Radar O'Reilly.
"I could not have done it," I said. And I thought how this big ethical question would begin our discussion in the new year. How do you sit behind your camera while a dime-a-dozen crab monges on an endangered species? Is that the right thing to do even if your documentary brings to the heart of these brilliant minds how necessary it is to protect these amazing animals?
"I can't believe we're watching this turtle travel around the Atlantic," one of my students said as we were approaching lunchtime, and that strangely intimate moment when the turtle mates with some turtle dude in the water was interrupted by the bell.
Who doesn't love a turtle needs their head checked. Needs careful surveillance. Because turtles, those wise and ancient beings who are as old (watch the hyperbole here, students) as the earth itself, deserve 81 minutes of our consideration even two days before Christmas. A turtle can get to the heart of a big ethical question like do you stand by or jump in when life is at stake? At what price, the story?
This dork can't. That's why I bought the movie. And now my kids can. Love life, love a turtle. And be kind when the big questions come up. Cheer for the turtle.