I was quite serendipitously presented with a thoughtful question last night on social media. Angela Maiers asked, “How big is your brave?” This was a question that I immediately felt would be interesting to bring to my third graders. Even more perfectly coincidental is the fact that we just began reading The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo as a novel study this week. Book one discusses light vs. dark, perfidy and bravery, and judging someone's differences unfairly. This question of how big one's bravery is was a perfect tie in! On the drive to work this morning, the radio hosts were discussing “the world's most difficult question to answer.” The question, they said, is, “What is your favorite feature about yourself?” The discussion explored how confidence tends to be viewed negatively in our society and that young people, especially young girls, are taught early to keep such musings to themselves. Sure we are capable of showering others with compliments, but to actually compliment ourselves can be tough. What will others think? How would we be perceived?
I began thinking that this too might be an interesting conversation to have with my third graders.
So when my Fearless Geniuses walked into class this morning, we finished Book One of The Tale of Despereaux. We analyzed theme, discussed characters and their traits, learned new vocabulary. We empathized and shared how the story affected us as we read. Then, I unveiled these two writing prompts:
1. What is your favorite thing about yourself? What is your favorite physical feature and why? What is your favorite “heart” feature and why?
2. How big is your brave?
They had the opportunity to not only support their thesis statements by discussing textual evidence from the book, but to explore a deeper examination of themselves. The results of this highly engaging writing assignment are as follows:
In the Tale of Despereaux, Despereaux is judged because he has big ears, is small, and was born with his eyes open. Even his family judged him. These are things that made him special and different. When I think of my own physical features I think I would choose my hair as my favorite. It is curly and I always think it is funny when girls with straight hair curl their hair to make it curly and girls with curly hair always want to straighten it to make it straight. I love my curly hair. I can wear it back and show my face or I can wear it down and show off the curls. Either way I feel pretty.
Despereaux also has a different kind of character. He sees the world as some place beautiful and not dangerous. He enjoys the light and music and a good book. He loves with all of his heart and no matter what. He is a lot like I am in this way. I am passionate about my education but I am also passionate and loyal to my family and friends. I would not commit perfidy against any of my family or friends. I am compassionate and would help them rather than betray them. Despereaux is a very brave when he speaks in front of the King and professes his love for the princess, when he faces the Mouse Council, and when he finds himself all alone in the dark dungeon. His brave is very big. My brave is not that big. Sure I can speak to people from other countries and classes and even give speeches in front of my own friends, but I also have a hard time being brave enough to really put myself out there and take risks when it comes to my work. I know I am smart. I am a genius. But being fearless is tough sometimes. I still get scared, but when I decide to push through it I always end up feeling a little braver than before.
Despereaux was made fun of a lot. Just because he had differences like big ears and being small everyone looked at him differently. I don't think I look different from other people much. What I do like about myself are my hands. My hands can do a lot of things. They can hold a baseball bat and hit the ball far. They can write my thoughts and tell my stories. My hands can help a friend feel better. My hands make my mom smile when they hold hers. Despereaux is a kind and curious mouse. His heart is innocent. He doesn't understand why others don't like him. I am kind too. When I play sports I am a good sport and tell the other players good game no matter what. I try not to get mad when other people are not nice to me because being fearless means to find opportunities to set an example. I know that my kindness makes the world a better place. Despereaux is a very brave mouse. He has a lot more guts than he should being so small. I think it is his confidence that makes him so brave. He believes in himself. I have learned that even though things can be challenging at times, I am capable of figuring it out. My bravery has grown since being in the Fearless Classroom.
In the Tale of Despereaux, Despareaux has many things about him that make other characters make fun of him. He has to be really brave to not let it get to him. I think I am pretty and I especially like my hair. But there have been times when other people have tried to make me feel ugly with their words. I usually feel hurt and think that maybe they are right. But after hearing our discussions about it being okay to celebrate what makes us special and after hearing what we think makes Despereaux special, now I feel special and I don't think I will let people make me feel bad anymore. I think my brave is growing.
Just like Despereaux, I have fears. I am afraid of losing friends, not doing well in school, not being good enough, not being liked. But I don't let these fears stop me from being who I am. I may not be the smartest or the prettiest but I am still me. I am a good friend. I am a smart and work hard. I am a great reader. I have a loving heart and believe in the good in people. I think if I were in a story there would be a lot of light around my character too. My favorite feature are my eyes because they are like mirrors of my heart. My favorite heart feature is my loving heart. I am a good friend. My bravery is really big because I am fearless. Not fearless as in having no fears, just fearless in that I don't let fears stop me.
I think I am brave because I will stand up for myself and my friends. I have been brave for the past two years in class because I have had to work really hard and sometimes it wasn't easy at all. I am brave when I go on stage to sing in front of a lot of people. I am strong and courageous. My brave is my song.
My favorite feature is my vocal cords. They are the best gift I have. Not only can I sing beautifully but my words help make the world a better place. I am brave because I choose words that lift people up but I am also truthful. Despereaux was honest and loved music just like I do.
I would like to think that my best feature is my passion for educating kids and creating fearless thinkers and compassionate young people. My BRAVE is LARGE and abundant because being fearless has lead me to some extraordinary experiences so far!