Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bringing the Real World into My Classroom

I've always enjoyed making "real life connections" in my classroom, as it allows students to identify with the world around them. My freshmen students are just beginning their unique projects for National History Day and I've asked them to look for ways which people, ideas, movements have persevered with resilience and determination. Most young people know what determination is, but perseverance and resilience are new concepts for them.
Last August my wife and I had the opportunity to have dinner with a former employer, and towards the end of our meal their son joined our table conversation. Austin is a friendly and energetic young man of 23 years, who has dealt with issues pertaining to chronic Lyme disease. While some people have experienced a tick bite, few have experienced the ultimate hell of fatigue, body pain, and feeling of helplessness that is all-to-often associated with chronic Lyme disease.

While the idea of bringing an ill person into my classroom isn't a glamorous must-have topic, the accomplishment of traveling over 2,700+ miles at 37 MPH from Portland, Oregon to central Wisconsin ON A MOPED is the ultimate marquee event for Mr. D's classroom. I insisted that Austin bring his moped right into my classroom, as a prop for students to see and feel while he engaged on a personal story of journey, through America's heartland with but a duffel bag, gallon gas can, and saddlebag of healthy food. There was little doubt in my mind that would connect with Austin in ways which would impact both their outlook on life as well as connecting history with strong, focused individuals. He was warmly received by both of my classes and his message hit home just as I hoped it would.

But it was during the second half of class when Austin's shared his story about his inner struggle, both physically and mentally, that they were surprised to find how this energetic young person had dealt with issues pertaining to chronic Lyme disease over a three-year period of his life. This was a time when others his age were enjoying life to the max, not lost in the despair of utter hopelessness. He spoke about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, setting aside time just for fun, and keeping a positive attitude. It was about perseverance, determination, and resiliency....qualities which define our character in special ways. Austin has it....and he made sure my students got the message loud and clear. He's a genuine inspiration for others his age...moped and all!

an image of a chart