“We all want to change the world, and sometimes we need to learn that it is harder than we think.” Rueben
Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde
I have learned to love to fly. I used to be petrified, saying little mantras to myself at take off and landing, worrying about every bump and jolt. But over time, the adventure of exploring new places, seeing friends and family, and now watching my own kids explore the world beyond our continent, I have learned to fly.
Time feels different in the air. It is this quiet little space, where I can read, and think, or meet new people. Today, I chose to read, to finish the book I will be introducing my young leaders to next month. Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde couldn’t have come at a better time.
I spent the flight inhaling the last half of the book, making notes where we can begin discussion, planning open ended questions, writing notes to myself not only to model for my students, but to interact with the text on my own terms.
The story begins with a teacher Rueben, who gives this same assignment every school year.
“Think of an idea for world change and put it into action.”
Trevor, a student in the class, is a young man who has these unmistakeable traits of grit and resiliency. “The thing about Trevor was that he was just like everybody else, except for the part of him that wasn’t.”
His idea is to create a better world by each one of us paying it forward. It means looking to do something for someone else with no repayment to yourself, but instead to ask that person to go ahead and do something for three other people, giving them the same direction, to accept no payment except pay it forward to three more people. The things you do for people are more than random acts of kindness, because they are not random, they are purposeful. The question throughout the novel, is will people really pay it forward or will they follow through?ther
So in planning for our year together I am driven this summer to find ways to empower my leaders to see themselves as change agents. There is so much negativity in the world of late, overwhelming for adults, and I can only imagine what it feels like to be a middle school kid right now. I am working to make sure that room 207 is a place where students feel safe, feel challenged and empowered to bring about positive change. This isn’t about just becoming a hashtag, although we will document our work #payitforwardcvms207 this year. It is about reminding my students, and I guess myself, that social discourse can bring about positive change.
This week began the Democratic Convention. It is raucous and loud, and full of passion and unfortunately more negativity. I wasn’t expecting anything different, but yet watching last night I was disappointed. Not that we should all agree when coming to consensus as political parties, as a country, but more discouraged because as a country we have forgotten how to listen. We spend so much time sharing our views we don’t listen to each other. We instead shout over each other, as if the loudest or most fearful message wins. The lack of faith in the leaders of our country is astounding. Most people don’t trust anyone who is running for office,or the political process and look instead to just repeat catch phrases, shout rhetoric, and play the blame game. Anything to avoid looking in the mirror, and realizing if we are going to make it as a nation, we have to get a grip on reality.
So in my own way, I am taking on the system by modeling for my students what it means to be frustrated with the way things are, but work toward solutions. It is ok to be angry, confused, frustrated and even feel hopeless. But then you look around, and you start to work toward what should be, instead of spinning helplessly in what is. The power of the individual cannot be underestimated. Not to be blind to what’s wrong, but to work towards what is right. It will be interesting how we move forward, and what these students will do this year. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary. We are a great country, where anything is possible. But possibilities become realities with work, voice and purpose. And so we begin.