Sunday, July 17, 2016

People are complex and multidimensional, unlike Percy Jackson

Mrs. Dodds from the Lightning Thief
before she turns into the Fury
This week I watched The Lightning Thief for the first time with my daughter. I liked the special effects. I was particularly fond of the substitute teacher who turned into the Fury flying around inside the museum. She was ANGRY. "Give me the lightning bolt or I will bite your heart out!"

What I didn't like was how shallowly the main character, Percy Jackson, was portrayed. He didn't express any emotions. When he thought his mom was dead, he was like, "Meh," shoulder shrug, "I guess I better kill this Minotaur." He didn't scream or cry. He didn't even look shocked. See for yourself: 

His hollowness continued throughout this fictional movie. People just aren't like that. People have raw feelings-- lots of them, sometimes at the same time. In this scene, I would imagine Percy is scared (terrified even) and angry and confused and devastated. AND he is brave because he moves forward anyway, even though he is (in my version) shaking with fear. He attacks and defeats the Minotaur and heads off to learn about who he really is. But first, I wanted him to acknowledge his sadness. His mom, who he loves so dearly, just got exploded into flames. Without depth of emotion, I just can't ever like Percy Jackson in this movie. There were so many opportunities to show a really multidimensional character, and I think this movie failed.

Lest you think this is a movie review, let me get to my point.

Students, teachers, parents, administrators, neighbors, cafeteria workers... Everyone has a multitude of feelings. We come to school even though we have full and overwhelming lives outside of our daytime schedule. Many students, for instance, have tons of emotions all at the same time. Imagine being excited about coming back to school (maybe you know exactly how that feels). At the same time, you feel worried about the new teachers. Is there a Mrs. Dodds among them? Maybe you're disturbed because you haven't been sleeping well or sad because of a death in the family. You may be thrilled about an upcoming birthday party or afraid because Math is hard for you. Maybe you're nervous about running into that boy that you saw over the summer. 

Having a full array of feelings is normal! Percy Jackson does not represent reality. He is a cardboard, lifeless caricature of a person. Sometimes it seems like it might be easier to act cool (and without emotion). You might be afraid to show how you feel because someone might make fun of you. Maybe you think it's weak to show your feelings, but I'm here to tell you that humans are complex creatures with a wealth of emotions. You and I have many layers to our personalities and how we feel. Showing who we really are is brave and strong.

"Fear" from Inside Out (Image labeled for
non-commercial re-use)
For instance, I am about to start working at a new school-- a whole new district, actually. Even though I have been teaching at a middle school for over a decade and maybe I know some things about teaching, I am nervous about this transition. I've left all of the colleagues I know, and I'm joining a whole new team. What if I don't fit in? What if I'm inadequate? What if my students don't like me? 

At the same time that I am nervous and fearful, I am thrilled! I can't wait to try something new. To prepare myself for this adventure, I have been reading a ton over the summer and getting to know other Chico Unified employees. I have been reaching out and asking for help. I have spent some time personalizing my new classroom so I feel more comfortable there. This week, I will attend a training and learn new skills. Meanwhile, I am also planning a wedding about which I am enthusiastic and overwhelmed. This is exciting stuff!

I feel confident that I will be an effective teacher this year, and I will make mistakes. On some days I will feel successful and on others I may feel discouraged. When I get married in October, I hope you will celebrate my love with me. If someone close to me dies, I hope you will understand if I cry. I am not Percy Jackson in The Lightning Thief. Neither are any of you. We have personalities and feelings and a mosaic of emotions. We have a lot going on all the time that we may not be brave enough to share. I try to model for those around me how complex my humanity is. I will do my best to create a safe place for your humanity, too.

1 comment:

  1. Ms. Davis - Somehow I missed this when it posted, but I'm certainly glad I saw it today. This is one of my favorite blog posts that you have written. I haven't seen the movie, but from your description of Percy Jackson I can feel how hollow and shallow he was portrayed.

    Even as an adult, I have a hard time expressing my feelings. Mainly because it makes me uncomfortable. I don't like others to see me cry. However, I think I am getting better. I've come to realize that it is not a sign of weakness, but of strength.

    I know as you enter this new chapter of your professional life at Chico Junior that you are feeling scared, anxious, and nervous. I also know without a shadow of a doubt that you will be a star. You will be the confident, effective, caring, quality educator that you've been for the last 10 years. The only difference will be your audience. Chico is lucky to have you!

    I look forward to sharing your laughter, tears, successes, and failures with you.

    My friend, I miss you already.


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