I am a Fictional Character

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wow.  I just posted a selfie on my blog.  I must feel really passionate about character...

     I just got home from IRC this weekend, and I just couldn't wait to wear my new shirt from Anderson's.  Yep, I am a "fictional character," and proud of it!

     Last year, after a few of our grades finished teaching the character Unit of Study, I realized that we hadn't really thought about why we teach a whole unit on character.  I think in the classrooms of the past, we used to quickly "list" the characters as one part of completing a story map.  Perhaps we had a conversation about what they did, or predicted what they might do in the story.  In the classrooms of today, we spend at least a month on characters, because Lucy Calkins tells us to.  Plus, it is Standard 3.  Right?

     It was in the middle of the unit, though, that I really began to think about the purpose for teaching our students to walk both in the character's shoes, as well as outside of them.  I began to realize that our students do that all the time on the playground, and in the lunchroom, and in the halls.  They are constantly aware of others and how they feel and what their motivations are.  As a recess supervisor, I can tell you that they know exactly why little Bobby pushed them, or why little Suzie is crying.  (Or, at least they think they do...)  They notice when their best friend goes from their best friend to their worst enemy.  They see the changes in their behavior.  So, why it is that they don't notice these things in books?  Is it because these concepts are too hard?  Should we not expect them to notice traits, and patterns of behavior, in book characters?  Is this just another example of the Common Core expecting too much?

     If our kids can apply the standard to real people on the playground and in their life, then they can do it with books.  They just need to care about the characters in their books a little bit more.  And they need us to model it.

     Real people are characters, just like their fictional counterparts.  They just matter more to us because they are real and in our world.  Perhaps if we can get our students to see book characters as "people," we can teach them to become better people themselves.  If we can get children to see book characters, and think about their traits and their behaviors, and even consider their motivations for doing what they do, then perhaps they will learn a little about the world around us and it will change them for the better.

Wilbur taught me that friendship means everything.

Rocky Balboa taught me that being determined to succeed will help me succeed.

Harry Potter taught me that even when horrible things happen, my actions can do good and help others.  

Gerald teaches me that even when we are frustrated and nervous, friends will get me through it despite my own attitude.

David taught me that being impulsive and silly can cause some problems, but that people will forgive me if I apologize.

     The truth is, these book characters taught me lessons that I can use in my own life.  The book might have been about them, but the character traits, big ideas and themes could have been written for me.  We are just like those characters in the books we read.  Perhaps, if we learn lessons from them, it can help us from making mistakes in our own world.

     I think I learned those lessons from the characters above not only because of their actions, but also from how other characters responded to them.  Our children struggle with that.  They tend to see things only from their own perspective.  Perhaps "walking in their shoes" a little more will help them see things in a different way.  Right now, they can only be the character if the character becomes them.  With practice and modeling, perhaps they will really be able to see what it would be like to live the life of another person (at least long enough to have some empathy and understanding).

     I am Leah O'Donnell, and I am a fictional character.  I have traits that change over the course of my life, both internal traits and just plain emotions.  Those traits do determine how I respond to things, and sometimes I act out of character and really struggle.  I am motivated by many things, and sometimes it is hard for me to see that.  I am living proof that Standard 3 matters.

(...and I am not talking about the "do go on the PARCC, multiple choice" Standard 3 that matters)


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