Yesterday I taught at a small school, so my classroom contained a mixture of sixth, seventh and eighth graders. They finished an assignment early, so I gave them a quick journal write to fill the extra time.
I told the kids to pretend that their house was burning down and they had time to grab only one item. What would it be and why?
After about two minutes of silence, hands shot up one after the other. The kids asked, “Does it have to be only one thing?” “What if we can’t actually carry it up?” “Can it be a bunch of little things in a box?” “Does a dog count?”
Seeing where their young, literal minds were going, I told the class, “The point of this exercise isn’t to determine how much you can physically carry from a burning building. This is about priorities. I want to know what you think and why.”
Once they were done writing, I asked volunteers (“volunteers” is teacherspeak for “whomever I call on when no one volunteers”) to share their answers.
One kid said he’d take his mattress, because that’s where his money is hidden.
“Why don’t you just take the money?” I asked.
“That would take too much time.”
Another boy said he’d take all his money, so he could buy food and clothing for his family until they could get a new house.
One girl would grab a box on her desk filled with special gifts people had given her that couldn’t be replaced. One boy said he’d be sure and grab his dog. Another kid said he’d take his DS, which I understand is some kind of new handheld video game, so he could connect to the Internet.
If my house were burning down around me, I’d grab the afghan my Grandma Shelley made for me when I was a baby. She died when I was four. Grandma Shelley made adult-sized afghans for everyone in the family, second cousins and in-laws included. I’m so grateful I have a big afghan, rather than the typical baby blanket that no one uses after age two, to snuggle in and remember the matriarch of my mom’s side of the family.
What would you take? And no, you cannot “take the fire and move it somewhere else,” as one boy suggested 🙂 More importantly, ask yourself “why?”