At the end of last week I had a Show & Tell day with my classes. Yes, I know that's typically a first grade activity, but it had a purpose in my middle school classes. Each student had already formulated a theme or focus for the blog he or she is about to start as an assignment for my class. Their assignment for Show & Tell was to bring in an item that represented their blog ideas. Several boys brought in football helmets or jerseys from their football lockers. A few brought in political cartoons. Many students chose to focus on music by having a "playlist of their life" or a "song of the day" to describe the events of their day. But one girl, in particular had a Show & Tell item that stood out to me. She walked into 4th period with.....a coconut.
Now this item had all the more impact, because the student who brought it is so quiet and shy in class. When I looked at her with a questioning expression on my face, she simply smiled her little smile and sat down in her seat to get ready for class, with her coconut staring at me from her desk on the front row. What could she possibly be blogging about that can be represented by a coconut?!
We started Show & Tell and began going around the room. Each student introduced their item and then related it to their writing. Several students told beautiful explanations or personal connections they had to their item and their chosen blog theme. (Have I mentioned before that, whether or not the kids would admit it, I teach a whole bunch of overachievers?) About halfway through, it was time for the coconut. The sweet girl who brought it stood up in front of everyone, and with a big smile on her face, began explaining her blog.
"I plan to blog about what food I feel like everyday," she said. Okay, this makes a little more sense....except I don't know many people who eat coconuts and I'm confused about how you feel like a coconut unless you just listened to a Jimmy Buffett song or like pina coladas....
Then she got around to explaining the coconut. She told the class that most days, she feels like a coconut. Like the coconut, she said, she has a hard outer shell that covers up what is vulnerable on the inside. The hard outer shell wasn't meanness, she said, just a protection of what she didn't want anyone to know was inside of her. She could show people the outside and keep up a certain appearance, without ever revealing her true self. And, she said, it was very difficult for someone to crack into what she kept inside.
So that is how you feel like a coconut.
Well, needless to say, I was floored by this metaphor. I never would have analyzed the connection she found in the way that she did; it never ceases to amaze me how insightful middle schoolers can be....and people act like it's such a tough age. The more I've thought about the coconut over the weekend, the more I've realized that I'm just like her. I am just like that coconut, too. I cover up all the things that make me vulnerable, put on a smile, and focus on making the best of everyday, without ever showing most people my true thoughts or feelings. We all do it. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not some damaged soul who fakes happiness everyday just to get by. I truly am in a wonderful place right now, and I love the activities and people that make up my life. But I've experienced hurt and loss and betrayal just like everyone else has and will throughout their lifetime. It just took a 14-year-old perspective for me to figure out that I, too, feel like a food most days.