Friday, October 15, 2021

Burning Up

Guess who spent another Friday in another sixth grade class? 

The lesson of the day was "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. (Yeah, for sixth graders. Yeah, I know.) 

As an introduction, I was to ask them for instances where people had to make difficult choices. I wrote their responses on the board. (I did this three times as the classes swap out, kind of like they'll do in middle school.) I got some standard answers, and I had to give a couple examples to get things going. 

The third group, after giving me several pretty standard answers, came up with "leave someone behind in a fire". 

Well, that qualifies. 

Then we were to discuss if they'd ever faced a choice like this, what choice they made, what effects the other choice might have had, and what advice they'd have for people facing hard choices. 

So, I picked a couple choices from the list to discuss, choices like "moving" or "doing your homework". (The second group came up with that one. The class vehemently protested that this was a choice. Having met many kiddos who don't do homework, I assured them that it was, in fact, a choice. We also discussed consequences.) 

I couldn't resist. I decided we had to go down the "leave someone behind in a fire" rabbit hole. 

They hadn't actually experienced that. (Whew!) But we talked about why someone might be forced to leave someone behind. 

Somehow, that turned into them saying if the other person was someone they didn't like, it wouldn't be a hard choice. 

I told them that they were wrong. I said that if they were in such a life-and-death situation, if it was them and their worst enemy, they'd save that enemy. They wouldn't leave that person to die in that fire. 

They didn't believe me. They said no, they'd have no trouble leaving that person behind. 

I'm not so sure. But rather than get into a shouting match, I moved on to the next part of the lesson (reading the poem). It was going long, anyway. 

Sometimes I wonder about me, though. I could have picked a way less controversial item from the list they generated to discuss. Ah well. 

So, do you think I'm wrong? Would you save a person you disliked from a fire? 

28 comments:

  1. Of course, and while they would remember your lesson, they would do if it came down to it. 6th graders may think they do, but they don't have real "enemies" to let die. I would guess you have to be careful not to pick any "what ifs" that have happened, like the fire one. They're old enough for the hard examples like that. I wouldn't be surprised if they continued discussing it after class. Although, it might have been along the lines of, "Well, I'd leave YOU, Ronny!" Hope there's no Ronny!

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    1. Perhaps. I wonder how much they remember about sub days in the long run.

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  2. Good lesson, Liz. Even tho it may not seem vital in any way, Frost will linger in their minds.

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    1. I hope so. I told them it was a famous poem. They didn't believe me.

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  3. Empathy cannot be taught, can it?

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    1. To a certain extent, it can't. Just yesterday... Well, that'll be a blog post for next week.

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  4. I definitely believe sixth graders can hate someone enough to leave them behind in a fire.

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  5. I admire you for even getting such a discussion going.

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    1. I just followed the lesson plan. Strange detours came from the kiddos.

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  6. Kudos for picking a more controversial situation. Something less than that would not have captured their attention. Not sure sixth graders can grasp the concept about bad decisions coming back to haunt you later in life, but what a great discussion!

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  7. I'd like to think that kindness would win and people would do something to save someone even if they were an enemy but honestly sometimes there is a lot of bleak news in the world! I like to think we are inherently good but it's definitely something that needs to be taught and not everyone is taught to be kind!

    Hope you are having a great weekend :) We finally have a sunny day after some rainy ones so will make the most of it!

    Away From The Blue

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    1. Just got to the weekend, so we'll see how it goes.

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  8. A good lesson day; one I hope that group of students remembers as they mature.

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    1. I wonder how much they learn from subs they retain.

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  9. I think as adults, most of us would choose to save the life. If the building was on the verge of collapse, and we (I) couldn't safely get in and out, then maybe not, but I'd feel awful not to have done it, enemy or no.

    My husband actually had to face a similar choice once, when he came upon his high school bully unconscious from a motorcycle wreck. He didn't have to risk his life to save him, so it wasn't exactly the same, but even so, he did what he could for this "person he didn't like".

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    1. That's why I felt the saving someone qualifies--what if it's save yourself or try to save someone else without knowing if you'd succeed? So many ways that could go.

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  10. One real don't know how one will respond.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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  11. You were doing what all good teachers do - making the children think and to question. As for me personally, I'm pretty sure I would save my enemy. I don't think I could live with myself if I left someone to die.

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    1. I know I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't try to save my enemy. But they're young. They haven't figured that out about themselves yet.

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  12. They might remember a lot about this discussion, maybe not now, but one day.

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  13. This reminded me of a story I read about the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima (or Nagasaki-I can't remember. It was a long time ago).
    Anyway (and I may get some details wrong), a family's home was leveled and everything was on fire. A mother, who was desperately wounded, tried to free her daughter from wreckage but was unable to do so. She saw fire rapidly approaching what was left of the house. She realized she would not be able to free her screaming daughter and told her (I'm paraphrasing) that she'd be unable to save her. So, she left, deciding to save herself. She may have later died (once again, can't specifically remember). NO JUDGING here, but dear Lord, can you imagine the horror of THAT Sophie's Choice?

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    1. No. And I don't want to. I'm sure that decision would have haunted her for however long after she lived.

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    2. A sad, sad horrible tale for sure.

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  14. Yes, I would safe that person ❤

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  15. I think the real tricky question is if you could only save one person but there were two people who needed saving... That's the really hard choice. But probably better you don't raise that question with 6th graders, lol.

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  16. That seems like a very compelling discussion and might well linger far beyond what you credit your teaching. You seem like the substitute teach I would have appreciated in my day. :)

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    1. We probably would have enjoyed each other in class.

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