Get your student out there!
We live in the age of technology - video, photo, image - they are everywhere, but no video or picture will ever be like the real thing (well maybe virtual reality with smell but not yet). I love technology for all of the things I can learn and experience but nothing is like the real experience. Take as my example the picture here that I took on the first day of Spring March 2018 in Kamakura, Japan. I have taught about medieval Japan in my Humanities class for decades. I know a lot about the Great Buddha of Kamakura, the amazing hollow bronze sculpture. One of the truly unique and amazing places of the world. But NOTHING was like getting off of the tour bus to gently falling snow on the first day of spring. Cherry blossoms were just starting in Japan (a real treat that the whole country stops to enjoy - think we can learn something there) and many advertisements were all about cherry everything in celebration. Yet when I stepped into the slushy water on the ground, it definitely did not look like spring. A few high schoolers that we were traveling with began to complain and my scowl could have melted the snow. I took a deep breath and looked at the Howard Street students who had traveled with me. “Let’s embrace this for it will never happen again. We will never be here on the first day of spring in the snow in Kamakura going to see the Great Buddha.” While I am sure they were cold like I was in my coat and gloves, everyone of them embraced the moment with me and ventured into the snow to see the Buddha. It was amazing, and according to our tour guide, almost unheard of. According to her, it snows in Kamakura in the winter but never in the spring. A truly one-of-a-kind experience.
But you don’t have to travel to Japan or spend lots of money to have those moments. I encourage you to get your middle schooler out there. Go to Salem’s cherry blossom festival at Willamette, or visit the Rose Garden at Bush Park. Visit the Hallie Ford Museum or the Gilbert House (both often have free passes). Take a trip to the library for a new adventure in print or maybe take a walk at Waterfront Park. My point is the things that you share with your middle school student in their tween and teenage years set the stage for the rest of their life. In middle school, your child starts to become a more independent person; they begin to develop their own sense of identity and are standing on the bridge between childhood and adulthood. They may not remember everything that happens but this age is really impressionable - so imprint them with strong positive memories and experiences. They will probably grumble and frown at having to go somewhere especially with you, but in the end it is worth it. Help them on their journey to becoming good people by giving them as many different and positive experiences as you can. New foods, new experiences, new habits, new responsibilities - all supported by you and with you can forever impact your child’s life. There is, sadly, a lot of bad and negative stuff out there that your student is exposed to; you can’t control all of that as much as we all want to. But we can give them the positive experiences that will have just as much impact. Be there for your student and maybe you will both go do something that will make you both a little happier today.
the Great Buddha of Kamakura
March 2018 - first day of Spring