Books That Touch Our Humanity

I have been struck down with Strep throat and am currently sitting in bed with my orange juice reading an amazing book called “Teach Like a PIRATE”. (Ironic because my voice sounds just like that of a gruff pirate right now..)  It’s just the kind of book I need: something to inspire me to do great things. As I was reading through this book I started thinking about the impact that amazing literature can have in the lives of our classrooms. I want to share with you two books that I have read with my students that I truly believe have touched our humanity and made us a better community of learners.


The first book is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. My students and I loved reading this book. It was our first novel study of the year. The story centers around Ivan who is a gorilla that lives in a mall. The story is told from his perspective as he remembers his past and fights for his freedom from the big top mall. It helped build empathy and understanding during that crucial first two months of the school year when we were carefully building our classroom community. The text is simple but the characters and story are so profound they move you in ways you cannot imagine.


The second book is Wonder by R J Palacio. The story is about August Pullman who is entering school for the very first time after being home schooled his whole life. August is a very special boy who has a facial deformity that makes him look extraordinary when he really is ordinary just like all the other kids. The book chronicles his struggles as he navigates his way into life as a middle schooler. It brings up topics that all kids can relate to: being new, exclusion, bullying, the power of friendships and acceptance. I am in love with this book and the conversations it has brought into my classroom.

So if you are looking for two great books to read with your students, I would recommend these two books in a heart beat.


Lessons from a Nations Grandfather

Mandela Quote

FbChange CC Krissy Venosdale Via Flickr

One of my earliest memories of school was an assembly with our whole school standing in the quad holding hands giving thanks and praying. Why were we praying and giving thanks? Our nation had just been set free and peace was on the horizon. It was the day Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president of our country. To this day I get chills thinking of that fateful day. It was a time of high anxiety and hope when no one knew what was going to happen. There were protests in the downtown of our city. There was election violence on the news every night. We practised what to do if the riots spilled into our school. It was a country on the edge.

Through it all Nelson Mandela held his composure and stood tall for what he believed in: freedom and equality for all. It is hard to describe how South Africans feel about him. He is our nations grandfather. We look up to him and he is a revered national figure.  This is why anytime you see news about his health you see us weep. It is because he brought our country in from the brink.

As I look back there are many lessons I learned from him that I still carry with me today in my life and into my classroom each and everyday.

He taught us that forgiveness is of utmost importance. Holding onto hate only feeds into the cycle of violence and oppression.

Mandela showed us the importance of Tolerance, that we are all equal and that we are all human. It is up to us to stand up to intolerance in all of its forms and to see the humanity in others.

 Despite being put in jail Mandela persevered and never gave up on what he believed in. It took unimaginable courage to fight the fight he did. In the face of it all he never gave up. He also made tough decisions that impacted many.

 Mandela has always been a humble person and never seemed to be above even the most common man.

 He showed us the importance of teamwork as he worked with his oppressors to bring about peace to our nation. He urged South Africans to work together for peace and prosperity.

His quiet and gentle leadership showed that you need not be overpowering or radical in order to get where you want to go.

Mandela always maintained that it would take time for the wounds to heal and for change to hold. We all need to have patience and to accept that some things will take time.

There is always hope. No matter how dark the days seem and how long the journey may be there is always hope for a better future.

No one is perfect and one man cannot save a country.  South Africa still faces unimaginable challenges. It is dealing with crushing poverty, corruption, horrendous violent crime and many other ills. Despite all this it is a beautiful country with beautiful people who will hopefully onto hold the lessons they learned for generations to come.

“Hold a Hand When it Needs to be Held”

Life is funny, when you least expect it, it gives you a moment in time that resonates deeply within your soul. Last night I encountered a moment just like that, a moment that made me stop and think. I was in attendance at a business awards dinner and the speeches were pretty dry, probably because I have very little knowledge of or interest in the investment business.  but as I was sitting there listening to the speeches one really caught my attention. A speech was being given by a gentleman who had just won an award for his work as a mentor and volunteer in the community. It was obvious from his speech that mentoring is something that he holds close to his heart. He spoke about the importance of mentoring and how something so simple really can change lives.

The moment that made me really stop and think during his speech was when he said “Hold a hand when it needs to be held”. These nine simple words touched the part of my teachers soul. As teachers we are always mentors and we are always there to help. Students look up to  us for guidance and support, in many realms of their lives from the academic to the personal.  If we can, we always help them to the best of our abilities. If we are unable to help, we make sure we are there for them when they need us, while we find them the help they need.  It is one of the best qualities of teaching and is one of the reasons I am drawn to the profession. When you see a child who is struggling with a problem, you step in and help them.

As teachers we are faced with students with a myriad of problems on a daily basis. Some are small and easily solved. Others are large and life changing challenges. It is up to us to be there and to help whenever  it is needed. When I spoke to the gentleman after his speech he recalled how early on in his mentoring journey he spoke to a young student who told him his mentor saved his life. The simple action of having guidance and a confidant at the right time of his life, kept him from taking the wrong path at a critical moment. So although they may seem insignificant small actions really do add up.

photo credit: Martin Gommel via photopin cc

Poetry: Words that Give Food for Thought

On my Monday task list was to finally complete the online  sustainability education concepts and methods course I am registered in, a mammoth task but one well worth the effort! While making my way through one of the units there was a whole section on connecting science with the arts. The unit is quite fascinating as a whole and something that has a natural appeal to myself as an early years educator. I thought I would just share one of the videos from the course as I think it speaks volumes about the potential impact and connection that can exist between the arts and sciences.

Below is a spoken word poem entitled: Hieroglypic Staircase By Drew Dellinger.