"Would you like to swing on a star?
Carry moon-beams home in a jar,
Or be better off than you are,
Or would you rather be a....."
(If you can't get that song out of your head now, or are feeling nostalgic, check out the song here:)
As a kid, I loved that song where you might rather be a fish or a mule until you realize that there are some not so nice things about being something else. Yesterday I read Dev Petty's adorable book I Don't Want to be a Frog! to my third graders. We are doing our "module work" (visit engageny if you still have the pleasure of not knowing what I am talking about) which is a nonfiction focus on frogs, rendering my students not the biggest fans of those amphibians. So I thought the book would add a little levity, which it certainly did. But it got me thinking......why do we so often wish we were someone else?
Today I plan to read James Howe's beautiful book, I Wish I Were a Butterfly, same theme. In this story, it is a cricket who is dreadfully unhappy being who he is. Of course, the irony comes at the end when a butterfly flutters past, listening to the cricket play a song and thinks to herself, "I wish I was a cricket."
My friends, the grass truly is always greener on the other side. I still struggle with this from time to time. I see the organized beauty of my colleagues' classrooms and think, why can't I keep my papers in better order and have such gorgeous charts? I see my sister rock an amazing shoe and think, why can't I make myself wear pretty heels? I see coaches and consultants walk with confidence into classrooms that are not their own and work with a group of children they aren't familiar with, and I think, why can't I have the confidence to be able to do that too?
But I am who I am, as Popeye might say. I wore ballet flats on my wedding day (to my stiletto-wearing sister's horror) and danced the night away in comfort. The heels would have made me miserable, and it was more worth it to me to be happy on my wedding day than hobble along in pained beauty. Try as I might, I can't keep a clean desk and the papers and ideas I have are many, the organization few. I will keep working on this one, but I will understand it is more my nature to gather lots of ideas than to neatly sort the ones I already have. While I am scared at the possibility of boldly charging into a classroom that is not mine and commanding attention, I do command attention in the room that is mine and it is a gift to get to know a group of students well, over time, day in and out.
Our students (and us) live in a culture where huge profits hinge on getting us to believe we could be better if we were like someone else. That is the premise of advertising. Life would be better if you were tanner, thinner, smarter, faster, richer, more famous, more like the Kardashians. Through the literature we share with our students and the words we convey, I hope we can at least present the other side of the story: You are you and that is beautiful, just the way YOU are. Butterflies are spectacular creatures in nature....but come to think of it, the crickets are too.