The power of class time truly astounds me. When our students have something line up, or take time for a creative project that they’re really passionate about, it always amazes me the level of insight that learners bring to class.
Our newest unit for Makom @ Home’s Nitzanim cohort is a tricky one with lots of modern applications- the story of Yaakov and Eisav. With emotional pitfalls, backstabbing and bending the truth, many parts of it show a grey side to the differences between right and wrong. It makes our in class discussions truly remarkable.
In class this past Tuesday I asked us to think about what qualities we show the world through a self portrait. At first an idea can come across to learners as simple steps to be followed in a concrete pattern, but sometimes the cracks in the concrete plan have wonderful new ideas sprout out of them. Where we had first been drawing or building how the world perceived us, now we were drawing a collage of all the elements of what made up our identities. New colors, shapes, and ideas all came onto our pages, swirling around our heads
“It’s hard to think of your own characteristics,” said one student. We discussed a bit about how we so often look outward at others and not quite as much time thinking about the pieces that make up us. We then turned our attention to the text. We described the way we had been seeing both the characters of Yaakov and Eisav and the assumptions we had made about each. I asked what kind of things we could assume about each of them, how did they look, what did they sound like?
“Yaakov is quiet, calm, and caring” we personified him with actions through a shushing motion. Eisav on the other hand was “loud, fierce, and dragon-like”, and was naturally personified with flexing all of our muscles.
Now came some harder questions- talking through all these elements of identity we talked about how we take our identity with us. “What do we do when someone disagrees with our identity?” I asked (a question I’m sure would stop most grown people for a minute or two- not my students!).
“Just keep being you!” one student said simply. “Listening to yourself and going with what you think and not asking other people for the answer”. We went a little deeper- “Not that you can’t have help. Asking can give you help but just getting the answer doesn’t help you”.
Like I said before, I am amazed by the power of the kids in this class. Their insight and thoughtfulness is truly striking. I hope that I can live by their legacy just a little bit more and be as myself as I can possibly be.