I always set a small block of time aside to explore Wisconsin's role in the Civil War by introducing Old Abe (the Bald Eagle who was involved with several battles), Governor Randall (who sacrificed his life while taking supplies to troops in Tennessee), and the Iron Brigade (reputed to be the finest and fiercest Union regiment). Today's teens are fully aware of 'Jump Around", the hip-hoppin' rap song played just before the start of every 4th quarter home game for the Wisconsin Badgers. The stadium venue has achieved celebrity status on gameday, but few, if any, of my students are aware of the history associated with Camp Randall and the Civil War. It served not only as a facility to train Wisconsin troops, but also housed prisoners of war from the South. When people walk through one of the main entrances on the grounds of Camp Randall, they unknowingly pass under the Memorial Arch, dedicated to those who served in this conflict.
While this is all good and informative, it's "HOW" I get there that impacts their learning. As I've noted before, I begin class with a "Thinking Prompt" that grabs their attention and pulls them in. Last Monday it started with a motivational slide and the words "I CAN"...then transcending to a slide with Walt Disney's quote of "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them." Kids of all ages not only like, but they also associate with Disney. Each of them identifies with one specific character, be it a hero, villain, or underdog. Then I pull in a slide of Camp Randall, play a 2-minute video of Jump Around and demonstrate how the crowd is fully-engaged. Their eyes are lighting up......
"Okay Mr. D.....where are you going with all of this?" During the weekend the NFL held its annual draft and one of the Badgers greatest success stories became a 5th round pick of the Green Bay Packers. Jared Abbrederis exemplifies everything special about underdogs making it in the world if they follow their dreams with guts and determination. Although many of them recognize the role he played with Wisconsin, none of them are aware of his walk-on status as an incoming freshman. None of them know about breaking his femur and being in a wheelchair three months prior to leading his high school team to a state track championship. None of them were aware that Jared grew up in Wautoma, a small town I worked in for 30+ years. I knew first-hand of his challenges in talking with friends and family over the years....and I shared some of this with my class.
If ANYONE is going to get to the place they're headed, it will be Jared. I'm not referring to life in the NFL, but the biggest game of all....life! He is focused and inspired, humbled and honored. I made a bold prediction that day with the statement that Mr Abbrederis will make it with the Packers. Not only does he now wear Sterling Sharpe's former number (84), but he walks with a determination that will bring success in life. My message that morning was "follow your dreams and persevere." ....not just the way Jared did it, but as all those quiet heroes from the Civil War did as life moved forward. Learn from the past and live for the future!