As a middle school English teacher, I am a big fan of project-based learning. Projects provide that delicate balance between intellectual stimulation and creative challenge. Today, with the deer-in-the-headlights reality of COVID-19 and its domino effect on us emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I want to share a project much-loved by my students that you can do at home: creating a play.
The photo here shows a simple cardboard cut out for puppets to do their magic. The puppets can be easily constructed from socks, yarn—even raisins for the eyes. Much like our creativity that is emerging in the kitchen as a result of our current reality, our imagination can also find exploration through self-created theater structures and scripts!
Here’s a baseline to get you started with kids of all ages:
Choose a scene/setting
Create characters (give them unique traits/mannerisms/features, etc.)
Think of a juicy conflict
Consider whether or not a resolution is needed—cliffhanger anyone?
When you are finished with your script (or perhaps improv is the soup de jour;-), consider posting your creative production on YouTube or Instagram. Who knows? In an effort to feed your imagination, you might just stir up someone else’s!
A colleague reached out to me over the summer and let me know about a teaching opportunity that involved working on camera for our school district. I jumped at the chance.
The audition involved creating a mini lesson, replete with standards and curriculum that followed the state’s guidelines. It required a specific rubric to follow.
Did I know what I was doing? Absolutely not. With content as a teacher, I shine, but with technology…well, that wasn’t in my wheelhouse. But I wasn’t going to allow a lack of experience using technology to impede me from doing something I love: teaching AND teaching on camera!
Creating the material for the lesson didn’t take me long, nor did the Power Point itself. Uploading my video with me on camera simultaneously…well, let’s just say, I didn’t eat for the entire day and it was dark outside by the time I was ready to hit submit to the district with my uploaded lesson.
Playing around with the unknown of the technology was frustrating but by the end of the full day, I had accomplished a new skill.
When I inquired whether or not my fellow teachers were auditioning as well, they looked at me as if I had acquired several heads. Their responses ran the gamut of:
“I don’t want to give myself anymore work.”
“That sounds too hard—no thanks.”
In the end, over one-hundred teachers submitted their audition (I’m part of a large district), so there were plenty of teachers, eager for the exciting opportunity.
I am grateful to note that I was one of the 25 fortunate teachers to get “cast” for the TV virtual teaching. And when we met for the first time this past week, I was not at all surprised by their positive energy. I felt like we all felt we had earned a “Golden Ticket” like something out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Our lessons will air on local TV weekly for 30 minutes. Since it’s only local to our state and city, I want to share the lessons I’ll be creating here for any potential parents or students out there, hungry to feed their minds. To that end, I’m my first episode at the close of today’s blog post. Feel free to use the lesson as a starting point or follow along directly and participate in the activities.
I encourage you to consider an area of your life where you find yourself reluctant to try something new and go for it anyway. When we push ourselves past our comfort zones, real growth takes place.
It’s no wonder Rupi Kaur is the author of two New York Times bestselling poetry collections. The twenty-seven year old writes with a brave vulnerability that draws us in; through her metamorphic journey we are also changed, encouraged by her candor to seek our own inner exploration.
I couldn’t resist sharing the excerpt below from Ms. Kaur’s latest publication, the sun and her flowers:
“you are a mirror if you continue to starve yourself of love you’ll only meet people who’ll starve you too if you soak yourself in love the universe will hand you those who’ll love you too – a simple math”
Kaur’s words remind me of the famous quote by former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The world is a reflection of our own perceptions. If we perceive ourselves as unworthy of love, we will continue to feel starved; if we believe that we are deserving of love, we will receive its unending sweetness.
Kaur is correct: It IS simple math. But I am so grateful of her grace with words for offering us a much-needed metaphorical mirror to determine whether we are nourished or starving.
Years ago, a friend introduced me to a jewel of a book: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. According to Toltec wisdom, there are literally four keys or agreements that, once practiced, offer us a world of inner peace and freedom:
Be Impeccable with Your Word.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Don’t Make Assumptions
Always Do Your Best
Ruiz writes that the cause of most human suffering comes from not following the above four agreements. And boy, is Ruiz right! This simple yet deeply insightful book has been my go-to for years. All four agreements work together and affect each other.
As our world continues to grow more virtual each day, it’s become clear to me that we need a reminder in not taking anything personally. While we are each the center of our individual worlds, we are not the center to others. As Ruiz states so eloquently:
“Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in.”
Words are a food for the soul. They possess the power to fuel or render us famished. But if we aren’t mindful, the words others serve us can make us sick. When we don’t take their words personally, we can continue to feed ourselves a diet that nourishes.
You can’t go onto social media now without reading someone’s vitriol regarding everything from a person’s weight to their political stance. If heeded, insulting words carry nutritional poison. But if you grow still, you will soon become aware that someone who is not happy with himself/herself serves those negative words. The poison they dish out is coming from within. You have the choice, the free will to not accept their toxic serving. Happy people don’t serve unhappiness—they literally don’t have it in them.
Actions that are cruel or toxic aren’t personal either. Ruiz notes this even in the extreme: “Even if someone got a gun and shot you in the head, it was nothing personal.” Again, negative behavior of any kind is a reflection of whatever is going on in another’s world and not about you.
This week alone, I have found myself grateful for Ruiz’s reminder that nothing is personal:
My friend calling me sleep-deprived after a 12-hour shift, articulating that I just don’t understand what she is going through.
My parents not calling on my son’s birthday, only to find out that they got the date mixed up.
Five people showing up to a virtual pre-launch book event of The Friendship Diet (after inviting over 100 folks)
Not taking anything personally also applies to compliments. While it feels good, we need to remember that, “If they tell you how wonderful you are, they are not saying that because of you. You know you are wonderful. It is not necessary to believe other people who tell you that you are wonderful.”
When we go within for messages instead of outward, we are serving ourselves the best emotional nutrition. Looking outward for praise is a dish that will always leave one hungry for more; looking outward for guidance on who you are is the culinary equivalent of “too many cooks in the kitchen”: at best you end up with a hodge-podge of inedible messages and at worst, you experience emotionally painful heartburn.
Nothing is personal. As Ruiz reminds us, when we know that nothing is personal “You can choose to follow your heart always. Then you can be in the middle of hell and still experience inner peace and happiness.”