Friday, November 14, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure…but please choose wisely.

Pin It Every month on my class website, I have what I call the thought of the month. I usually try to write this for my students and have it relate to something they can understand and with which they are familiar.

My class currently has discovered the love I once shared for a series of books which gave me the power to decide what would happen. I share the 'thought of the month' with you now...

When I was in sixth grade I discovered a set of fantastic books…in fact, I can still remember standing at the school library trying to get my hands on one, any one. Often, there were very few copies available because they were so much fun to read. You probably know what books I’m talking about…it’s the “Choose Your Own Adventure books.” Many of those from my generation have fond memories of these wonderful stories that didn’t simply take you on a journey of a character, but allowed you to be a part of the story and make many choices along the way.

I recall a short note in the beginning of each book that said something like this: “Warning, do not read this book straight through from beginning to end, when you are offered a choice, choose which one you would like to make….the outcome of the story depends a lot on the choices you make.”

Some of those choices were presented like this: “If you choose to travel up the stairs, turn to page 20. If you would rather walk down the hallway, turn to page 63.” I remember that every now and then when I made a choice I was led to a page where there would be an illustration that helped me to predict what was going to happen before I even read the text …you know, that I died or that I didn’t find the treasure in the old house. I had friends during this time which would sometimes offer me advice, since many of these kids had read the book before me, they could tell me the good choices to make in the story. Often, when I would follow their advice, I did much better in the story and would usually avoid breaking my leg or dying.

As I’ve gotten older, I have come to realize that our lives are an awful lot like those books I loved growing up…like these stories, it is the choices we make each day that bring about the consequences of our actions; additionally it is our choices which help to decide just what choices will be offered to us in the future as well. The really scary thing is that the “Choose Your Own Adventure book,” the one you are currently “living,” even as you sit here reading these words, doesn’t have only one choice every few pages, but several choices—hundreds of choices each day and these choices determine where our lives—where our story will lead. We decide the ending by the decisions we make…not only this, but it is each of us who determine just who and what we will become by these choices.

Sound a little scary thinking of life this way? Well, it shouldn’t be because life has friends, just like the ones I’d had when I was growing up. These friends have already read a little farther in the stories and know what many of the outcomes are…do you know who these people are? Yep, you got it…the adults in your life like your parents and teachers. “Whoa there!” I can almost hear you say, “You mean to tell me that the adults around me know something?” This may be hard to believe, but they really do!

Though you may not believe it now, your parents have experienced many of the same things that you have and are a little farther along in their Choose Your Own Adventure book; they have a lot of good advice to give you and are there to help you make those choices but only if you listen. However, how often do you choose to listen to the adults in your life? I mean really listen? Often, it all goes in one ear and out the other…sounding an awful lot like all the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons…”Wah wah wa wah wah wah waaaahhhh.”

A few years ago I came across a really big choice in my own Choose Your Own Adventure story, one which I wasn’t sure what choice to make. This was a time that I turned to my dad. I asked him what I should do and I then listened to the advice he gave. Now, I don’t know what would have happened had I not followed his advice, but I do know what happened because I did. I am glad that I chose to listen to the wisdom of someone who has lived a little longer than me, who cares about what happens in my life, and is doing everything he can to ensure that my “story” is a little bit easier than his was.

One of the saddest things I encounter as a teacher is when I have a student who is making choices which are inevitably going to lead them into a harder life, I try to help these students understand this and many times they still don’t listen. It is frustrating to sit on the sidelines and try to coach a player who won’t try to run any of the plays but insists on standing out on the field doing nothing while the rest of the team moves all around him.

Now, what options have been opened up before you in your own story? What choices are offered to you each day? Do they include choosing to use kind or mean words to a family member? Is it between finishing your homework and playing video games? Perhaps it is between finishing your chores and running outside to play with your friends. The point is, we all are faced with a many choices each day, and things competing for our time and attention.

I do wish to point out though, that as you choose your adventures, remember that we are all works in progress, we’re all in different chapters of development and none of us is perfect. I have a feeling that some of us look at ourselves and see nothing but hard slabs of stone. We think we’re worthless perhaps because of a few poor choices we’ve made or letting others’ words affect how we see ourselves. When these thoughts come to you remember this story about Michelangelo: One day he was asked how he was able to sculpt and create such beautiful pieces of art with only blank slab of marble. To this question he replied, “I saw an angel in the stone and carved to set it free.”

Never forget, you are taking part in a story where you are the star with many possible endings, make the choices that will make you a better person as you turn the pages. Choose the options that will open up a limitless amount of new choices, not those which only lead to dead-ends. As the Choose Your Own Adventure books often say, “These pages contain many different adventures that may befall you…as you read along, you will be able to make choices, and the adventures you will have will be the results of those choices. Think carefully before you make a choice…”


MindyElias said...

First things first........

I LOVED Choose Your Own Adventures and actually still have some originals in my book collection in my office.......

Second, your thoughts on being a coach and the player not exact feelings today with one of my frustrating and so sad...I keep waiting for him to look up.

Third, I love the way you talk to your kids, not at them and not like they are too immature to get what you are saying.

Too bad for the kids in AZ---we could use you here, teaching "my"'d be great to work with....

Have a fabulous night....


Danielle said...'re so awesome! :D
I LOVED those books when I was growing up, and I had thought of them like the decisions in life, but you put things SO WELL!

Bee said...

I so wish you could have taught my son. Maybe I should pick up a couple of these books for him. I had forgotten all about them. I read them when I was younger, but didn't know they still existed. What a great way to introduce these books to your "kids".

K.J. said...

I have never read one of those books. Where can I get one? I do remember my older kids talking about them when they were in your class. I would love to read one.

mywest said...

Your so right, life is an adventure and we pick and choose the outcome of our lives. My dad left this earthly life just when I was beginning my teens. What a great loss for our family. I started making decisions for myself trying to gain wisdom from others so not to make mistakes.

As a young unskilled father I made many mistakes. Mistakes can be good if we learn from them and grow to become a better person. In my world I was the provider and protector and was mostly living in the future...worrying about many different things and what I could do to get my children educations finish building our home and how could I really retire someday. I lost precious family moments that were lost forever.

You have a great heart, part you inherited, but mostly because of the choices you have made. Each of my children have gifts and talents that I can be proud of.

Our choices in life become actions we take, and can only be gauged by the end results. If those end results weren't a wise decision we need to learn and correct our behavior without beating ourselves up.

My family has blessed my life so much...I'm thankful for having the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. As you say "Choose your own adventure...but please choose wisely. I can't be too far off the path because I still love when my children call me DAD.

summer said...

Oh, I haven't thought of these books in a long time - but I remember reading them and of course loved them as well! Isn't it great to see life lessons all around us - to draw a parallel and understanding from something even as small but teachable as 'Choose your own Adventure'. Way to always be helping your class try to grasp and see the bigger picture around them.

annette said...

I struggle with the choices I make every day.I like what your Dad said: "If those end results weren't a wise decision we need to learn and correct our behavior without beating ourselves up."

BTW- Total crack up:
…”Wah wah wa wah wah wah waaaahhhh.” (sometimes I start talking like this to my kids when I notice they aren't listening!)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...