Here I sit in Nashville, Tennessee at the National Council of Teachers of English annual convention. Last night was our opening banquet and we were to hear Elie Wiesel, author of Night, a glimpse into one man’s experience as a Holocaust survivor. Unfortunately, Elie’s flight was canceled so he was unable to attend. What a disappointment.
Ever the flexible teachers, the NCTE organizers had him call in to speak with us and broadcast his voice throughout the banquet room. Due to his thick accent and the amplification of the phone call, he was difficult to understand. However, the experience was still a worthwhile one for me.
After his call, the were some readings from Night and reactions to these sections by various NCTE representatives. During these readings, I began to think about my children and my hopes and dreams for them. In one section of the book, Elie’s father tells him that he wished he would have gone with his mother when they got to the concentration camp.
“His (father’s) voice was very sad. I understood that he did not wish to see what they would do to me. He did not wish to see his only son go up in flames.”
I haven’t read this book since becoming a father almost three years ago; it now means something different to me. So much has changed in these last three years, but I think the most dramatic thing is the deeper impact that these types of topics have on me. It disturbs me to consider how I would feel in these situations and that’s how I look at everything now… what would I do if I were in that situation? Maybe I should, but I don’t think about it. I actually purposefully avoid topics that will force me to consider these feelings. It may not be healthy, but I can’t bear to think about my children in that type of situation.
Funny enough, it’s affected my teaching as well. I now put myself in parent’s shoes as I plan my lessons. I ask myself if this is what I would want for my son or daughter. Am I the kind of teacher that I would want for my own children? If I say yes… continue with lesson. If I say no… what needs to be changed?
Elie Wiesel has seen some horrendous things, things that I will never truly understand. But one thing he has done is made me a better father through his words.
Thank you Mr. Wiesel, from me and my children.
I stumbled across the Grammar Girl podcast on itunes a couple of weeks ago and after listening to a couple of episodes I decided it was time to share.