Learning from a Childhood Hero
Posted by dlander2012
Anne Frank, 1940 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Diary_of_a_Young_Girl )
On Remembrance Day this year, I watched a documentary about Anne Frank. This brought back the memory of my reading of The Diary of Anne Frank- a story that made a lasting impression on me. Anne Frank was definitely one of my childhood heroes!
A whole new understanding of Anne’s life was revealed through the documentary. I learned that there are several versions of The Diary. Apparently, the one I read was intended for children; the one where the reader is left to believe that Anne escaped the holocaust unscathed and lived to publish her story. Much to my dismay, that is not the way things really turned out! The documentary taught me that the family was eventually apprehended, and Anne died of typhus in a concentration camp. Anne’s diary was found after her family was taken from their ‘hiding place’ and it eventually made its way to her father, Otto Frank, the only surviving member of her family. Otto eventually had several different versions of The Diary published. I’m actually quite happy that I didn’t know the real ending when I was 10 years old; even now, the reality is disturbing.
The documentary prompted me to go to the library to check out the other version. My reading experience this time around was, as you may expect, quite different… And it’s no surprise that I began to read from the perspective of an educator! The first part of The Diary, in particular, lends itself to analyzing the education system of the 1940’s. Anne began to write in her diary several months before her family went into hiding, so I relished in reading the passages of Anne’s musings of her school experiences.
The following 3 excerpts resonated with me for various reasons…
From pages 10-11: “Betty Bloemendaal does very well at school, but that’s because she works so hard, not because she’s so smart.” [This excerpt almost sounds like it could be a quote from Carol Dweck’s Mindset- very insightful thinking during a time when school systems were convinced that intelligence was a fixed trait.]
From page 11: “D.Q. is a very nervous girl who’s always forgetting things, so the teachers keep assigning her extra homework as punishment.” [No comment!]
From pages 16-17: “Our entire class is quaking in its boots. The reason, of course, is the upcoming meeting in which the teachers decide who’ll be promoted to the next grade and who’ll be kept back. From morning to night, it’s ‘You’re going to pass,’ ‘No, I’m not,’ ‘Yes, you are’… teachers are the most unpredictable creatures on earth. I’m not so worried about my girlfriends and myself. We’ll make it. The only subject I’m not sure of is math. Anyway, all we can do is wait. Until then, we keep telling each other not to lose heart.” [Did the students feel that the teachers just randomly determined whether or not they would pass to the next grade? Were they not cognizant of the extent to which they successfully met the learning outcomes? When we know better, we do better, and I, for one, am glad that we now know better than to “keep students back.” I am also happy that we are consciously working towards a system where all students know what the learning outcomes are, understand that learning happens along a continuum, that different students in their class may be different points on the learning continuum and may need different levels of support to help them move forward – and THAT’S OKAY.]
The experience you bring to a reading really does define what you take away from it. Thank you, Anne Frank, for enlightening me, yet again, with the words in your diary. You are an even bigger hero to me, now that I know the real ending.
Posted on January 1, 2016, in Embodying Visionary Leadership, Providing Instructional Leadership, Uncategorized, Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context and tagged curriculum, Diane Lander, educational beliefs, teaching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.