Monday, June 22, 2015

Let It Go: Teaching Considerations from "Frozen" #sol





As the summer officially begins, hot, hazy, and humid, I have been reliving the eternal winter of Arendale as my daughter Megan has rediscovered the movie "Frozen."  I know everyone is over it already, but Megan has decided we need to watch "Frozen" several times a day, sometimes beginning it again just as it ends.  She needs her Big Elsa doll and her Little Elsa doll to sit with her while she watches it, and scattered on the living room rug are little statues of that knave Hans, Olaf, Anna, Kristoff, and Sven.  I can't tell you the utter angst Megan experienced when Little Elsa went missing and several trips upstairs and downstairs did not yield her return (At the time of publication, Little Elsa has yet to be found).  

This might be a little bit of a stretch, but as I have been watching "Frozen" on repeat, I hope you will go along for the ride with me.  I am going to name something that happened in "Frozen" and the possible teaching implications. Without further ado...


From "Frozen": Grandpa Troll tells Elsa and her parents that her gift is dangerous and her fear will get the better of her, causing major problems.

Teaching Consideration: Kids live up to what we expect of them, so giving them a positive reputation to live up to rather than a negative one is important for their self-concept.  Way to give Elsa a complex about her talent, Grandpa Troll. 

From "Frozen": In the classic sequence, "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?", Anna keeps trying to get Elsa to open the door and engage with her.  Elsa thinks she is protecting Anna by staying away, isolated. They love each other but there is a doorway blocking them from really knowing what the other is experiencing.

Teaching Consideration: We never really know what is going on in another person's life.  As teachers, we have many interactions each day with students, colleagues, administrators, and parents.  Not all of these interactions go smoothly which can leave us feeling deflated.  Imagining that each person you meet has good intentions, perhaps not visible to us, could help us stay open to forging a deeper connection.  

From "Frozen": Elsa spends the bulk of her life ashamed of her gift of magic, trying to conceal it and not feel her emotions.  This is a total disaster and leads to her bitter isolation and then setting off an eternal winter, as well as injuring her beloved sister. It is only when she escapes that she feels free to "let it go" and be who she truly is. 

Teaching Consideration: Our students should never feel ashamed to be who they are.  Hiding yourself and your true self is a fruitless endeavor that will leave you and hurt and isolated and can't last anyway.  We need to make our classrooms safe and welcoming spaces for all of our students- from all cultures, from all types of families, religions, and with all their unique differences.  Allowing students to fully embrace who they are will lead them to self-actualization. Our students should feel at home and free to show their talents and abilities in our classrooms and should never feel they have to hide part of their identity.   

From "Frozen": "Love is an open door!"

Teaching Consideration: By opening up the doors to our classroom, literally and metaphorically by becoming a connected educator, we allow ourselves and our students to experience so much more than they could have within our 4 walls.  Blogging, skyping or doing a Google hangout, and tweeting class happenings are just some ways that we can open up our classrooms to more connections and possibilities for our students.  

From "Frozen":  After Anna saves Elsa and then Elsa saves Anna by kissing her, Elsa realizes that she has the power to stop the winter the whole time.  By focusing on love and not fear, Elsa was able to bring back summer and joy to Arendale.

Teaching Consideration: Nothing good ever comes from fear.  In the powerful Foreword to Colleen Cruz's Unstoppable Writing Teacher, Lucy Calkins writes, "As a profession, we are gripped by fear...Do you feel what fear does to you? It is a cage that traps us, alone, into our worst selves.  Into a space with demons that only we can see."  For a while, I focused on fear.  The fear of getting a negative evaluation and losing my job.  The fear of my students test scores not being high enough.  The fear that no matter what I did, I still would face being rated "developing" or worse.  That mindset, that fear that the APPR Monster would gobble me and my dreams of being a teacher (and making my mortgage payment) squeezed out all the joy I had for teaching.  It took away the love- the love for my students, the love of my subject matter, and the hopes of making a difference.  When I pushed aside the fear and focused again on the love- the love for my students, the love for literacy, the hope that I can have a positive impact that isn't measurable in test scores...well, as Robert Frost once said, "That has made all the difference." 

Watching "Frozen" hundreds of times has led me to these insights and to the constant refrain of "Let it Go" running through my head as I search the house for the elusive Little Elsa.  As summer vacation starts for me this Friday, I'm ready to celebrate the end of a joyful year and "let it go", knowing a new year with a fresh start is just around the bend.   

If you have any other teaching connections from "Frozen", I would love it if you wrote it in the comments!