Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Hey , Why Not?
I just finished watching a classic western called Red River, and, strange as it may seem, it made me wish a new school year started tomorrow. I was thoroughly inspired by the pioneering spirit of big John Wayne and his Texas ranch hands as they led 10,000 cattle 1,000 miles north to Missouri on one of the first cattle drives in the West. They had no definite idea of an actual trail and no reasonable hope that they would ever arrive at their destination (or even what the exact destination was), and yet they set off with an untamed spirit of buoyancy and bravado. They had little to lose and a life like a long escapade to gain, so perhaps their attitude was, “Hey, why not?” The film inspired me because that’s exactly the attitude I hope to cultivate in my classroom. There’s entirely too much hesitancy and diffidence among my young students, too much desire for undemanding books, safe assignments, and high and easy grades. If my students were in Texas with John Wayne, they would have been terrified to set off on such a dicey and intimidating trip. They might have asked for an assignment they were more accustomed to, like leading the cattle to a local waterhole. Actually, I shouldn’t be too hard on the students, because I, too, have some of the same spirit – too much tentativeness and timidity, too little inclination to try something brave and big and totally different. The film inspires me to look for new horizons in my teaching and for unmapped trails to take with my students. I need to say, “Hey, why not?” more often, especially when a really rowdy and undisciplined idea for a lesson occurs to me. Sure, the lesson might fail in front of my eyes, but it also might make it all the way to the end of a startling and instructive trail. Why not?