On Humanity

Every year at this time I run a unit with my students on the theme of “humanity.”  We read A Christmas Carol and discuss charity, human compassion, and selflessness.  It’s always a successful unit, largely because we put on a small-scale production of the play in each of my five language arts classes.  Ideally, the play works to each student’s strengths, and increases their overall comprehension of the text.  Most importantly, the kids commit themselves to it with enthusiasm, and the activity leaves a lasting impression in their memories.

This week, right after I’d announced casting and we began our first read-through, one of my students raised her hand. 

“Ms. Conrad,” she said.  “Since we’re talking about humanity and everything, maybe we can put a box in your classroom for a food drive or something.”

This will be my sixth year teaching this unit, and this is the first time that someone has made this type of suggestion.  I suppose I could be disappointed in my past students, or in myself, for that matter, for neglecting to think of it before.  But I’d rather focus on the double-joy of a student connecting our over-arching literary theme to her life, and the character that it shows in her. 

I have roughly 150 students.  Developmentally, twelve-year-olds are inherently selfish.  It’s difficult for them to see outside of themselves and think of others’ needs and feelings.  But it would be a very simple thing to ask my students to contribute canned goods over the next three weeks, in the interest of helping people less fortunate than ourselves.  And I’d like to think that it, too, would be something that they’d remember. 

And so, on this day after Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to know an adolescent who reminds me of the things that we can do for others; a pre-teen who thinks of other people first, and shares that consideration with her peers.  She taught me a lesson about humanity this year, and I imagine she did the same for other kids in the class.  What’s more, I know that she’s not the only one.  I have—and have had—so many students who show a tremendous level of caring and kindness. 

I’m thankful for all of them.

Leave a Reply