The thermometer said 85 degrees. If I was going to be doused with ice water, today was a good day.
A history teacher had called me out, daring me to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and to the laughter of my students I’d said yes. The ASB class set the date, seeing in me a “lunchtime entertainment.” A student would pour; I’d get wet.
I knew I’d have the student body’s attention, my first chance to address all the students as a whole this year, at least for the few moments before the plastic bucket was empty and I was dripping onto the lawn in the quad. Make the most of the opportunity, I thought; the educator in me started rehearsing what I wanted to say…
I’d start by thanking the kids for a great opening of school. Strong and caring teachers, kind parents, and an amazing school staff set the stage, but it’s the students who make the show soar, and this year they have. Our big, interesting bunch have filled campus with a positive energy from the first day of classes.
Playing on that sense of community and desire to help each other I’d bring up the reason behind the ALS Challenge, raising money and awareness for research to combat this disease. I’d provide a specific example or two, like our own local “Bike 4 Mike” event benefiting ALS research, a real way they could get involved.
I’d say something about the future …that’s them. Cures, answers, vision for a better world, these will be their legacy. Would I lose any sense of being articulate looking over a bucket of ice water? We’d see.
When I got to the quad and looked out over the crowd of kids (phones poised; this would end up on Facebook), that line by Emily Dickinson floated through my mind: “I dwell in possibility/ a fairer house than prose…”
The students at Diegueño and in classrooms across California, the United States, and the world are possibility. Our job as educators is to support them and challenge them, to give them opportunities and inspiration.
The seeds of curiosity we plant in 7th and 8th grade grow roots in these adolescent years, sprout, blossom as the students move on to college, and bear fruit through the work they do as adults.
Do I believe a student in today’s lunch crowd will help cure diseases? Yes. And more.
Future firefighters and teachers, future engineers and poets, future philosophers and surfers stood on that grass today.
Do I believe that the students now at Diegueño will change the world? Yes. And more.
Those young women and men will define our world. They will discover answers to questions we don’t yet know to ask. They will be the activists who come up with the next Ice Bucket Challenge, the researchers who use the donations to find cures for diseases, and the population who supports progress, kindness, and possibility.
For today, however, they’re the twelve and thirteen year olds watching a guy in a tie get ice water dumped on his head. And laughing.