BY REBECCA ISENHART
What shapes the way you see the world?
When I agreed to be one of Van Antwerp Middle School’s guest speakers for the school’s annual Career Day, the 60-plus seventh-graders I met expected me to let them ask the questions.
But I’m a journalist, so that wasn’t happening. And when I learned the theme of this year’s career day was diversity, I knew exactly where to begin the interview.
So I asked them: What shapes the way you see the world?
They can all define the term “point of view” off the cuff. These kids pay attention in English class, and science, too. They can explain the technical workings of our retinas, rods and cones, the evolutionary tricks our eyes use to decode bended light.
But at first, that question — What shapes the way you see the world? — threw them.
So I went first. I’m not quite 5 feet tall; that shapes the way I see the cereal on the top shelf at the grocery store and the people in front of me at concerts. I’m a big sister, the oldest of four; that makes me a little bossy and a lot protective of the people I love. I went on until their hands started to go up.
They learned that right there, in that classroom, there were Yankees fans coexisting with Red Sox fans, big sisters sharing markers with little brothers, hyper kids, serious scholars, tall and short and loud and quiet.
Once the lists started, they flowed. Some had been through tough stuff, like house fires and parents’ divorces. One girl’s dog died on her birthday. A boy was allergic to peanuts.
The exercise may seem silly, but they got the point. Everything about us shapes the way we see the world. If they want to be journalists and tell others’ stories, they have to catalog their own stories first. They have to tally up their biases and carefully counter them with compassion and curiosity.
So maybe the kids who signed up to visit the news and broadcast room during career day got a little more than they bargained for. But they must not have minded, because on the way out of each session, several kids volunteered to share their answers to that first question with you.
Here, in photos, is a small sample of the many things that shape the way Van Antwerp Middle School students see the world.
Photos by Rebecca Isenhart