Well as I sit here by the warm fireplace, it is -12 degrees wind chill outside. We cancelled school today after having two days of two hour delays. I don't know what tomorrow will hold as they are predicting more snow tonight and freezing temperatures for tomorrow. I hope you will not mind but I am reading a book that I have read several times and I would like to share just a little bit with you. I think it has a lot to say and could be helpful to our students here at Vantage.
The book I am reading is call "Molder of Dreams" and it is written by Guy Doud who was chosen as Teacher of the year back in 1986. Guy had an interesting way to teach his class but he always managed to really relate to his students and vice-versa. One assignment that he had his students do at the beginning of the year, was to have them pair up and interview each other. He wanted them to find out something about the other student and then the next day share it with the class. In the book, Guy talks about all the small talk that goes on at this time. One student asking the other about sports, or which music they like or if they are going to prom. This went on the first day and then Guy asked them if he could read them a poem. The poem is anonymous and goes like this:
Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear,
For I wear a mask.
I wear a thousand masks-
Masks that I'm afraid to take off,
And none of them are me.
Pretending is an art that is second nature to me,
but don't be fooled...
Please don't be fooled.
I give you the impression that I'm secure.
That is all sunny and unruffled with me
Within as well as without.
That confidence is my name.
Coolness is my game,
And that I'm in charge and that I need no one,
But don't believe me,
My surface may seem smooth,
But my surface is my mask,
My ever varying and ever concealing mask...
Who am I?
Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
I am every man and every woman you will ever meet.
Guy then asked the class, "The poem mentions that we wear masks - one mask for our parents, another mask for our teachers, a mask for friends. Do you agree with that?" I do said a girl sitting to the right of him. "It's difficult to be honest with feelings sometimes because of the fear of rejection." Guy was impressed with her analysis and her maturity. Guy then asked her, "Don't you think most of us want the same things?" "Yes", she replied, "we all want to be loved."
The next day in class Guy had each student stand up and tell about their partner from the day before. There was one student in class who was wearing a ball cap because he had very little hair on his head. The student who interviewed him got up and explained that he interviewed Kent Soderman. He was a senior, played the saxophone. His dad's a welder and his favorite baseball team was the twins. Mr Doud asked the class if they had any questions and no one asked any. Mr Doud knew this student from a couple years back and knew he was dealing with cancer. I now quote from the book.
"Well I know why you don't have much hair, Kent, but some of the other kids might not. Would you mind telling us?" "No, I'd like to talk about it," and he began to relate his medical history. The tumor had been discovered in junior high school. The first surgery had affected the use of his fingers, so his band instructor had taped his fingers to his saxophone keys, Kent laughed as he told us about it. He explained about the treatment that he was presently undergoing. "Does it make you very sick?" I asked. "Sometimes it's not too good," he replied. "It can make your hair fall out- even your eyebrows." And he smiled again. "But it's just one of those things you have to do." ... I had never felt what I felt that moment in my classroom. I looked at my students' faces. They were without masks. "You know, I think it's interesting that Kent has been living with this for some time. We've come to school with him, and yet many of us had no idea what he was going through. I think we all feel better because Kent has shared with us about what's going on in his life." "Kent would you mind if some of the others in class ask you some questions?" "No, that would be fine," he said. A girl looked at him and asked: "How long did you say that you've had it?" "Five years," he responded. I was surprised by the girl who asked, "Do you ever wonder, 'Why me?' " "No", Kent said. "I've been in the hospital and know little kids who have died. I'm just thankful for what I have. I have a good family, a great dog. I've been elk hunting in Colorado." Then he looked at the girl who had asked the question. "No, I don't question God. I'm thankful to Him." A long silence followed before Kent's partner asked, "Do you ever worry about dying?" Kent didn't hesitate in his answer. "No, I don't think about dying. I think about living. I'm looking forward to graduating, just like the rest of you." He could see that several of us were crying, so he joked, "Who knows, maybe I'll even play for the Twins someday." We all appreciated the humor. One girl in class asked Kent, "do you mind if I give you a hug?" Kent wore a broad smile and answered, "No, I'd like that very much." ... I watched as the young man who interviewed Kent placed his hand on Kent's shoulder. I could detect a tear in his eye, too. The masks were gone.
Thanks for reading this long blog today. I hope you will think about the masks you are wearing at different times and try to remove them. Reach out to others and get to know them. Your life can change for the better and I promise you, your high school years will be better for it.
P.S. I just received a text from the instant alert. Enjoy the 2 hour delay tomorrow. :)