At the end of the school day, after the students have left, I lean back in my chair and blindly gaze at my ceiling. Finally, my wife comes down from her classroom and opens the door to my classroom and asks, “Are you ready? I nod as I drag myself to the door and have a habit of flipping the switches on the wall, hoping to turn off those damn halogen lights. The two switches are a mix-match control combination, so I always press the two for good measure and walk away, leaving the air conditioner hum in the dark with the ghost of the dead fish of my half-filled aquarium. .
As we walk down the hall, carrying our respective work home, I begin to relay the most dramatic moments of the day. It had been a day and the continuing turmoil had nothing to do with what I was teaching. He never does.
As I ramble, my wife witnesses my growls like an empathetic best friend. Wearily we push open the door and bump into the oppressive sun rising from the parking lot. However, as we unlock the car and get in, I remember something wonderful happening today as well. In the haze of my monotonous moans, I remembered the Fortune Box. I also realized once again that complaining sometimes becomes a habit. Stupid robot brain.
About three days ago, I assigned a new task to my creative writing class. I had never tried it before but, in the end, the mission is very simple. The best are.
Originally, as a writing prompt for the start of the class, I asked them to create a couple of fortunes or positive sayings that could be found in a fortune cookie. They had to imagine that random individuals would read these fortunes. The next day, I pushed the mission further.
Earlier in the week I had purchased 25 small, colorful gift boxes, no more than an inch and a half wide. The boxes look like wrapped miniature gifts. I asked my students to choose one of their “fortune” messages to put in a box so that a random person could find it in the school.
After my students finalized their prophetic and inspirational messages, we printed them, cut them out and placed them in the boxes like little scrolls. However, some students also put small charms in the boxes: miniature keys, small crystals, small flowers and other things. Yet the message written in the box was the real gem. As usual, many students ran with homework and created very original boxes.
Either way, their mission was to affect someone with words; to make a random person feel something when they open the box and read the message hidden inside. In this context, the messages could in no way be negative, but rather motivating or moving.
When all the pieces were assembled, they were ordered to go out into the school during school hours (because the hallways are empty) and to discreetly place the boxes throughout the school building: a ledge of window, corner of steps, atop a door frame, anywhere a person could accidentally let their eyes fall on the box.
When we returned to class after the boxes had been planted and my students were all seated in their places, I stood up at my podium and honestly asked, “I wonder if we’ll know if anyone has them.” find… “
Today, at the end of a class, one of my intrepid students rushed towards me as other students brushed past her indifferently. She exclaimed, “They found him! They found it! Apparently my student had placed his Fortune Box somewhere where a cafeteria worker had found it. I thought it was interesting. I only thought of other students who would find the messages.
Apparently, this recipient recorded the student’s deep little message on his cash register.
The student, in her excitement, said words I had never heard before as a teacher: “Thank you for assigning this assignment! When I think about it, I won’t remember it was a “hard day”, I will remember it was a beautiful day. This student knew she was affecting someone with her words.
It was his message in his Fortune Box:
When was the last time you looked outside? Look over there, through that window, through that door. Rain or shine, the earth is still there, alive. Through dehydrating droughts or ocean floods, the land continues. The flowers are still blooming and the grass is still growing, just like us humans. It’s like winter. All around you… it is fading. Everything turns black and brown, and it shrivels into a state of glass-like brittleness. In the spring, however, and in the summer, these shells of life bloom again into vivid orchids and tall fruit trees. They die every year just to come back even more beautiful than the last. Just something to think about, I guess.
Brian Theodore is a language arts teacher at Corbin High School and lives in Corbin with his wife, who is also a teacher at the CHS. He can be contacted at [email protected]