This year, I asked my Grade 8 and Grade 9 students to respond to only one question for their final, end-of-the-year reflection. “What was the most important life lesson you have discovered in a book this year? Write about that lesson, and explain why it is important to you.” Some of them left me notes and pictures on the backs of their reflections, too.
Lessons about racism and privilege:
“From the book, “The Help,” I learned that I should be thankful and treat my maids nicely…. At first, my group and I thought that the white Americans are so bad and racist towards the Blacks. However, I continued to read and asked “Are there any similarities or differences between the work of maids in Indonesia and the United States?” I sometimes get mad and frustrated with my maids because they did something wrong, and I sometimes cant think that I should be thankful them, because they work with my family to earn money. After my group and I answered the question, I realized I need to be more patient, more thankful, and more behaved than what I was before. I need to be thankful and respect them, because they have worked between 10 and 20 years for my family, and their loyalty towards my family is worth being thanked and respected.”
“‘The Help’ is a book about racism, and by reading it, I could relate my own experiences and feel regret about it. The main character, Ms. Skeeter, showed me how to behave to my drivers and helpers. I tried hard to not be like Ms. Hilly, and that is one of the biggest things that influenced me. These lessons are important to me because someday, I will grow up and have children, and I don’t want my children to grow up like Hilly, but like Skeeter or Mae Mobley. Therefore, I learned to treat everyone equally, because race doesn’t matter.”
“‘The Outsiders’ explains how different the Socs are from the Greasers, but also how we can show respect to others. I think this book’s lesson is important to me because even up to this date, there is still a huge gap between the rich and the booth. As the upper-class ones, we sometimes look down on the lacking ones. We are all humans created by the perfect God. If we look down or disrespect those who are below us, we are basically disrespecting God since they’re God’s creation.”
About Life and Love:
“The most important lesson I learned this year is from the book ‘We Were Liars.’ I learned that life isn’t worth living without people to share it with and that you should always treasure the time spent with people you love, because one day we will all part ways, be it at the doors of death or by journeying down a different road.”
“The most important lesson I learned this year was from “The Wednesday Wars,” and it’s to cherish the people around you and in your life. This lesson is important to me because I tend to not show how much a person means to me, especially to my siblings. Although I do love them, I just don’t always show it because they always tease me about it.”
“From the novel, “Ties that Bind,” I was able to learn that, despite our positions, social status, or anything, if we desire something and keep doing our best to achieve it, we can actually accomplish it…. I found this book really inspiring.”
[From “Ties that Bind”.] “Ailin taught us that we don’t need to follow society’s standards in order to be loved and respected. She showed us how to be independent and how to stick to your own morals. I think that this life lesson is extremely important because without it, we’d be lost in the midst of society’s ways of life instead of ours. Always stay true to yourself no matter what people say.”
About the Power of Words:
“The most important life lesson I have discovered this year is to be cautious when initiating fights, both verbally and socially. One’s arrogance and thirst for action or fighting can be one’s downfall. I learnt this through Mercutio’s death in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ who fought jokingly for a cause that was not really his, and paid the ultimate price for it. This lesson is important to me because I also have a penchant for taking sides in problems I have no cause to take and for causing disruption when there is no need for it.”
What important life lessons have you learned from a book?