Welcome to my newsletter for June 20, 2020, and my timely topic of compassion.
Many years ago my school system adopted a character education curriculum. Each month teachers were asked to incorporate lessons on various character traits such as compassion, respect, honesty, or other abstract nouns focusing on morality. Large signs reminding students of these “character” words were displayed throughout my school building.
As an English teacher I decided to teach these words through literature. I had lots of “aha” moments as I discovered poems, jokes, songs, video clips, etc., that paralleled my character word of the month as well as the theme of my current teaching unit.
For example, when I taught the play Antigone, my students conducted a mock trial on the subject of moral law vs. civil law. During this study I shared the anonymous poem “Guilty or Not Guilty” and the Chicken Soup article “Things Are Not Always Black or White” by Nikos Kazantzakis.
I introduced them to Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock” when we studied Silas Marner.
When we read Elie Wiesel’s Night, I shared Robert Fulghum’s story “The Mirror” to show my students how to reflect light into the dark places of this world.
When our word of the month was “perseverance,” I told them about the mule who kept “shaking off the dirt and stepping up” in order to get out of his hole. For “honesty” I read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” one of Aesop’s fables. I was amazed they had never heard the story before, and most of them had never heard of a man named Aesop.
According to my Illustrated Junior Library edition of Aesop’s Fables, a freed slave who lived in the 6th century B.C. gained fame by teaching moral lessons through stories about animals. He helped humans to better understand their own strengths and weaknesses by addressing “the ways of the wily fox, the timid deer, and the noble lion.”
Much wisdom can be found in the moral lessons of this man called Aesop. Click Aesopbkmks to download and print bookmarks with Aesop quotes.
Long after the required character ed curriculum was cast aside, I continued to supplement my lessons with what came to be known as my “Monday Stories.” Every Monday I began class with a relevant “story” that emphasized the theme of our unit while also emphasizing character. These stories grew into a giant notebook that I still treasure and use today in various ways. These Monday stories had more of an impact than I realized.
One Tuesday before class, a student brought me an excuse for her absence the previous day. As I was signing the note, she asked, “Did you read a Monday story yesterday?”
I replied, “Yes, I did. You missed a good one!”
“Oh, no! I’m never gonna miss another Monday! I love those Monday stories!”
I never dreamed these stories were making a difference in anyone’s life!
This young girl was repeating tenth grade English her senior year because she had dropped out of school two years before to have a baby. I did not know her then, but I understood she was having a difficult time when she was in my class. Her mom was taking care of her child, and she was trying to work forty hours a week and finish her high school requirements. My Monday stories were having a positive impact on her!
I love stories that send a message. Maybe that’s why I became an English teacher and why I love reading. At any rate, I wish the world could hear a Monday story every week to set the tone for whatever might lie on the course outline horizon.
I will leave you with a Monday Story entitled “The Paradox.”
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We have learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but we have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice; we have higher incomes, but lower morals; we’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are the times of tall men and short character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.
These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce; fancier houses, but broken homes.
It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to make a difference or just hit delete. –Author Unknown
During this summer of 2020, may we all show compassion to others and heed some of the lessons of Aesop: Unless the seed of evil is destroyed, it will grow up to destroy us. –“The Swallow’s Advice”
The Literary Lyonesse
Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12