Freaky Friday - March 21 - March 23, 2019

Wellington C Mepham High School

 A Note from the Director 

A student in my classroom recently lamented in passing that she wishes she were an adult because being an adult is so much easier than being a teenager.  Being an adult myself, my initial thoughta knee-jerk reactionwas You have no idea what you're actually wishing for.  But being a teacher as well, I reminded myself not to scoff at her wish.  It's all about perspective.  This young lady only has knowedge of the present and an idea of the future based on aspects of adulthood that ring desirable: no homework, no school, no one telling her what to do.  Conversely I, the adult, has knowledge of the present and memories of the past based on aspects of teenage life romanticized by the passage of time: homework, no bills; school, no work; relying on others, not relying on oneself.  And that is the basic concept of Freaky Friday, established when mom Katherine and daughter Ellie lament: "How I wish you'd understand / and see the world my way / for just one day!"

 

By experiencing just one day in each other's bodies, Katherine and Ellie come to understand the realities of their lives, and their misconceptions give way to respect and reconciliation brought about by their discovery of empathy.  Their newfound perspectives help them to move forward as individuals and as a mother-daughter duo.

 

I think it's reasonable to assume that everyone has, at one point or another, wished to switch places with someone else because, as the cliché goes, "The grass is always greener...."  It's a nice thought.  Yet this perspectivenarrow in its scopeprevents dialogue, which is what we shoud have when seeking mutual understanding.

 

Teaching English language arts is so much more than just writing the five-paragraph essay and obsessing over grammar.  That's how it looks to those outside the field.  To me, teaching ELA goes beyond appreciating structure, form, and content; it is about gaining a deeper perspective of the human experience.  Through reading and writing, we learn about one another by seeing through others' perspectives and walking in others' shoes.  So on a daily basis, my students and I walk into new perspectives. We do this by dialoguing about the lives of the characters we read together.  We do this by dialoguing about my students' lives, which I read about through their writing.  We do this by dialoguing face-to-face as a whole class, in small groups, or in one-on-one conferences.  I have this same experience as a drama club adviser, but on the stage this experience is magnified because the student performers literally walk in others' shoes and, for a brief moment in time, live others' lives.

 

Jamil Zaki, a neuropsychologist and professor at Stanford University feels similarly: "I think of lots of forms of art as empathy boot camp." He explains that, in the digital age, it's easy to lob insults and make assumptions in online forums or comment sections than to have an open dialogue when face-to-face with another person.  Therefore, "[t]he arts act as an antidote to that estrangement and provide you with a very low-risk way of entering worlds and lives and minds that are far from what you would normally experience."  He concludes with this observation: "Empathy is often work.  It's an effort that we make to find commonalities between yourself and someone else."

 

Yes, empathy is work.  It's easy to envision life in someone else's shoes, but until we are willing to walk inside those shoesuntil we are willing to work at understandingempathy will elude us.  Freaky Friday invites you to consider a relationship of your own in need of work and, well, work at it!  Open or, in some cases, reopen a dialogue.  Consider the world from the other's perspective.  Observe...and listen.  You might find that you end up seeing the world a whole new wayin just one day.

 

Edward Grosskreuz, Jr.

 

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