This Mississippi delta sunset seems fitting for my last post about Mississippi – for the moment. (Next – Texas!). Before I head into the border towns, though, I wanted to say a final ‘thank you’ to this amazing state, and share a few excerpts from a letter written by one of the teachers, Ben Peterson of St. Mary’s Academy. Ben captured the essence of the project’s purpose in ways that only an astute and driven teacher can.
Ben’s class was truly amazing, as you’ll read in the post before this one. They were thoughtful and wise in their choice. They followed-through on their commitments — a rare thing in Portland’s Educational climate, and they took the stories to heart in ways I never expected. For this, I credit the passion, compassion and curiosity of Ben.
My students, all girls, chose Mississippi. They wanted to ask a central question to the citizens of Mississippi: “Being that Mississippi has never had a female governor (Oregon has had two) how does that impact the way girls and women think about the opportunities they can have?“
Carolyn’s project is so relevant and important to the conflicts and misunderstandings of our national identity. What was impressive was that in a time ripe with polarized politics, “Looking For America” turned our attention to important social issues instead of political ones. Issues about people and understanding rather than rhetoric and argumentative posturing.
Carolyn’s ability to connect with the students was deep and immediate. From her first visit to the last the students were fully engaged and and challenged in ways they rarely are in the classroom. Carolyn encouraged the students to look deeply within themselves in an effort to better understand their fellow citizens. I’ve never seen or heard of anyone who would allow teenagers to choose where they would travel for two months. Carolyn’s belief, though, was that our teenagers, especially girls, need to see themselves as leaders of tomorrow. And in Carolyn and her beliefs, my students saw an authentic and engaging role model willing to listen and converse with anyone and everyone, regardless of race, gender, or income.
Thanks Ben!!!! I LOVED this class, the questions they asked and the opportunities they offered me!!!
Bye, Mississippi —– for now.