A peaceful world.


Sheesh, what a week.

I teach fifth grade, and this was the first full week of school.  I bet you think my “sheesh” has something to do with my class, huh?

Well, sorry, but you’re wrong.

It’s actually the entire rest of the world that is giving me “agita” as we Italians say.  I wish I could put the entire rest of the world into my “morning circle” and maybe life out there would make more sense.

Let me explain what I mean.

My class of ten year old children spent a good part of the week writing our “expectations” for the year.  What do we expect of our classmates, of ourselves, of our teachers?  The children created a list.  It includes things like “be kind”, “be gentle”, “be forgiving”, “be honest”, “be respectful”.

We have talked about how to tell a classmate if your feelings are hurt.  We’ve defined “swears” (“words that someone isn’t comfortable hearing”.)  We have talked about how to make a good choice when we decide where to sit in morning circle, and how to ask if you can play, and how to step into the line.

This was the week of the 9/11 anniversary, an event that occurred before these children were born.  They discussed it. They asked questions. We talked about it for a half hour. In the end, I tried to reassure them, to give them a sense of control over a scary world. “If you want the world to be peaceful, you have to live a peaceful life. Be peaceful in your friendships, and in your family. Be the change you want to see in the world.”  They were somber, and serious and thoughtful.

They are coming to terms with the idea of personal responsibility, and of personal choices.

They are ten years old.

What in the world do they think when they watch the news? “We must destroy ISIL. We will bomb them, but we won’t send an army in to fight them.”  We are stronger, so we can anonymously kill them from the air.  I know, I know. Don’t lecture me: they are bad guys. I get it.

But how do I explain this to children who I’m trying to teach to be respectful and kind and not to use superior strength to hurt those who are weaker?

And then we come to the horrific mess that we refer to as the “NFL”?  We pay millions of dollars to men who can throw or catch a ball. That’s all they can do, but we make them heroes.  And we ignore the fact that they use their incredible physical strength to beat those who are weaker and smaller. Even when they say that they “love” those people.

To make this all more upsetting for me, I have asked my class to look into the future.  We are doing our first writing/art project of the year.  We are looking 20 years into the future, following the prompt, “What would you want to be doing, if you could have absolutely the coolest, most exciting, most awesome career in the world?”

I find it incredibly depressing to see how many of them want to be professional athletes.

10 thoughts on “A peaceful world.

  1. Well, at least I don’t want to be a professional athletic supporter, so I’m one kid of whom you can think kindly.

    Me? I wanna be a super-secret-agent so I can shoot people!

    007bear

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  2. I visited a class of 6th graders a few years ago for career day. I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. Nearly all said professional athletes (or lawyers). Not one variation from those two choices. My career (web programmer) was “boring” and they didn’t want to hear about it. I’ve never done a career day again.

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    • And for me it wasn’t even about careers so much; it was about reaching for a dream. I understand that little kids aren’t supposed to be choosing a career (tell that to the Common Core people!). I was just disappointed that I couldn’t get them to dream big.

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  3. …….it is depressing. What is even more depressing to me is seeing the grown men wearing the jerseys of those athletes that they idolize. I find it not only moronic to lay out $100 or more for a silly shirt with someone else’s name on it but sad that a grown man can be so childishly foolish. I find it depressing that a gathering of men at a family get-together can spend hours talking about fantasy football statistics (which, by the way- to me goes counter to the concept of a team sport!@#$%) and do their best to avoid engaging in a real discussion about the real economy, taxes, the government, the Fed, etc…..they’d just rather avoid hearing me start….

    Don’t get me wrong, I like sports and watching the games as much as anyone but for me it stops there.I played sports, I read all about the history, etc… I enjoy them more when it’s my own children or nieces and nephews playing. As a grown man, I get annoyed at the spectacle of professional sports more often than not. I also find it bothersome that is is so often used as a tool for military propaganda.

    It is depressing to realize the emphasis that sports has taken in the educational system. My son made the Dean’s list every semester at a Major University and finished in 3 years and was never showered with scholarship money that the athletes are.

    And what is worse! The other night at our High School Junior Daughter’s Back-To-School night at our local Catholic HS ( a night my wife and I love- to get to know the teachers and have fun re-living our own HS days finding our way from class to class, etc)….An inordinate amount of time was spent during the homeroom period presentation pitching a new fund-raising campaign to raise TWO MILLION DOLLARS! to put in turf playing surfaces on the athletic fields, so we would no longer be one of the only three schools left in the region without turf. In their view this would help attract better athletes to the school.
    REALLY?? High School? Is this what we’re about?

    Thanks – and keep up the great writing! I really enjoy reading it and appreciate your perspectives.

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    • I’ve decided that I’m all done with football in all its forms. My sons played a bit, and I detested it. I watched the Patriots in the Brady glory years because he is such a likable guy. The violence of it, and the worship bestowed on those guys is just too much for me. Luckily for me, although my husband loves to watch sports on TV for relaxation, he is far from obsessed with it. Same for my boys.
      I think its kind of a way for the media to keep us focused on BS rather than the actions of our government.
      Thanks for the kind words!!

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  4. I’m not a sports fanatic, but I don’t begrudge anyone else the escapism of watching professional sports. The ugliness comes when people begin to believe the fantasy. Isn’t it possible that children see an opportunity to keep playing (for work)? I know as they get older the fame and fortune holds some power, but most of us know that the closest we will get to being a professional athlete is in the stands. Big media has done nothing to keep our heads on straight since it tends to glorify fame, money and power. There is so much to do and experience in life. Let’s hope that we aim to provide the opportunity to explore what’s out there to all of our kids. I’m sure that the kids in your class have a teacher that will guide them to dream larger.

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    • I agree with you; kids should be able to dream of anything that makes them happy. Usually when I do this project in the fall, I have kids who dream of being doctors or writers or artists or musicians, as well as the ones who want to be athletes. If it weren’t for the bad behavior of the athletes out there, and the way that we hold them up as heroes, I wouldn’t be bothered.

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  5. I don’t panic too much about these future aspirations, to me they are the modern day equivalent of ‘I’d like to be a princess’, or ‘an astronaut’. No matter what they see and read, children absorb their home. It is what happens in their own world and immediately around them that really influences our young. Teachers like you and parents make a real difference.
    I believe very much in our children, and in their future. I have met and continue to meet too many wonderful individuals. It is the changing world that I am concerned by, the advance of social media, and the emphasis on body image and beauty. The effect that will have on our children I think will be more damaging than war or overpaid athletes.

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