Friday, December 18, 2015

Happy rather than dignified..

"I would always rather be happy than dignified."
~Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre)

I've always liked this statement. Having spent my entire adult life with a tenuous grasp on dignity is part of the reason. But the other part is the joy that it invokes. Sometimes in life, you just have to ignore your dignity in favor of joy.

This time of year, it is not difficult to find examples of people willing to choose happiness over dignity. Ugly sweater day, the mail carrier wearing a santa hat, bobbing for candy canes - these are not things that "dignified" people do, and yet they generate so much happiness.

Technology increases our ability to abandon dignity for happiness. Check out my JibJab video as proof. Or go to Twitter for some some entertaining pics under #StarWarsTheForceAwakens. Pretty much everywhere you look, you can find digital examples folks willing to toss their dignity in exchange for a little happiness.

In the next few days, whether you are at school, the supermarket, the mall, the post office, a work event, a family gathering, on the turnpike - wherever - choose happiness over dignity. Even if you feel a little silly, others will appreciate it. Plus, it feels really great! I promise!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why We Tell The Story

My son left Thursday morning for the 2015 Pennsylvania Thespian Conference. His school was honored to be asked to perform their production of Once On This Island on the Main Stage. It was a big deal.

On Tuesday, the students held an open rehearsal for the hapless parents, as the Conference itself is only for students. I was blown away by the skill, talent and effort of all the students. This was my son's first high school musical production and compared with the middle school shows, it was "next level."

I cried through most of the show - as is my embarrassing custom when students display such passion and commitment. The performance was impressive and reflective of the time and energy they put into learning the songs, accents and steps.

When I dropped my son off on Thursday morning for the bus that would take him to the Conference, I had a feeling that he would not be in touch for the duration - most 14 year old boys aren't into texting their mom and so I pretend to be ok with that.

Fortunately, the Conference has a hashtag and I have been able to keep up with the events via Twitter. Of course, my son doesn't tweet, but many others have. I've seen pictures of his friends and the set.

I've also been able keep up with the buzz about various workshops, lunches, shows, crushes and hotel accommodations. Kind of like a nanny cam for teenagers.

I recognize the pathology in this practice. I could try to reassure you that I have continued to have a normal existence throughout these last few days of digital spying, but I doubt that you'd be persuaded. However, in the process of spying on my child and his counterparts, I was able to recognize some important truths about human existence and how they manifest themselves in teenagers.

The most visible need is voice. As educators, we know that we must allow students to have a voice and that their voice must be heard. Interestingly enough, there are no adults tweeting with this hashtag, but even without adult "supervision," the tweets are clean, respectful, kind and supportive of others and their work. Maybe they got the memo about "managing their digital footprint" or maybe they are just so engaged in their practice that they can recognize and appreciate excellence in others.

As humans, we desire connections and the PA Thespians are no exception. The humorous and positive way the are building community is a powerful lesson for adults.

At the end of Once On The Island, the entire ensemble sings Why We Tell the Story - a song about the importance of giving voice to one's existence and sharing it with others. #pathesfest15 is a beautiful example of why we tell our stories - to connect, to share, to laugh, to complain and be part of something bigger than ourselves.

"Life is why
we tell the story
pain is why
we tell the story
love is why
we tell the story
grief is why
we tell the story
hope is why
we tell the story
faith is why
we tell the story
you are why
we tell the story"