When Our Role Models Let Us Down

This year my students have been doing a lot of summary writing of various news articles I give them to read. The articles are usually connected to the setting of a story we are reading, related to a topic they might be studying in another class, a current event from around the globe or an inspirational story of some kind.

This week, as a follow-up to one of the first articles we wrote about, I had to break some bad news to the kids. This is how my first period reacted.

Me: “Oh boy. I hate to start off class this way, but I have to tell you some pretty disappointing news.”

Student 1: Looking at the stack of our class novel, GONE, which finally arrived… now that we’re halfway through with it… “We don’t get to read our book anymore?”

Me: “No, that’s not it. That would be disappointing, and I’m glad that you like it so much that that’s the first thing that popped into your mind.”

Student 1: “Well, I was going to say…”

Me: “This piece of news I actually heard from Mrs. Meyer, who heard it from one of her and one of my students in the hallway. Do you remember Oscar Pistorius, a.k.a. Blade Runner? The Olympic athlete who was born without a fibula in both legs?”

Heads are nodding across the room. Image

Student 2: “Oh yah. I heard about this.”

Me: “Well right now, he’s sitting in a jail cell in South Africa waiting to go to trial to see if he can make bail. He’s accused of murdering his girlfriend.”

Class: “Whaaaaa???”

Student 2: “Yah. And on Valentine’s Day.”

Me: “The news just broke yesterday, and there are a couple of theories going around. Some say he’s had a long history of domestic violence and anger issues, others are saying that she snuck into his house to surprise him for Valentine’s Day and, thinking she was in intruder, shot her.” Image

Student 3: “Well, I’m not even a lawyer, but that last one sounds like crap.”

Me: “Well, either way. I’m going to let more news come in over the long weekend, and then I’ll find an article that we can read next week. That way we can all be informed and follow his story.”

Student 3: “Good grief. That makes me not like him anymore. He shot his girl friend? And on Valentine’s Day? I mean there’s like what, 365 days in a year? 364 of those are like, eh, just a typical day, but he had to do it on Valentine’s Day?

Me: “Like I said, information is still coming in, but keep your eyes and ears open over the weekend, because it will be in the news.”

Student 3: “Hey, Miss Lewis. How about, instead of writing a 10% summary, we can write him letters of disappointment. He can read ’em while he’s sitting in his jail cell. That will give him something to think about. Idiot!”