The Important Thing…

We often rush through our days, trying to get from one thing to the next; in doing so, we tend to miss the finer details that present themselves. How do we ensure that our students don’t fall into the same trap? How do we teach them to slow down, look around, and take the time to pay attention to the changes taking place around them?

A few weeks ago, when I discovered The Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, I knew that I had come across something special, something that I had to share with our students at Achieve. In this book, Brown writes about spoons, daisies, snow, rain, and so on. She points out their various characteristics, always highlighting what she considers most important about each. Her book models the process of taking the simple things in life and focusing our attention on those details that we might otherwise overlook.

Together, Dr. Jody and I conceived of an activity in which we shared the book with our students and asked them to write their own paragraphs and poems in which they would identify those things about themselves, and the people and objects in their lives, that they find (most) important. Our students produced serious, thoughtful, humorous, and heartfelt pieces of writing; such is the outcome when we put them in the driver’s seat. We cannot share them all here, but read on for a sampling of student writing in response to our prompt. Enjoy!

~Eric Nguyen, Acting Director

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The important thing about
homeless people
is that they are
inaccurately judged.
They lie on corners countless cold nights.
Other times they have
great hearts
but they take dirty looks.
People don’t realize they are
human, too.
But the most important thing about
homeless people
is that they are
inaccurately judged.
~Allie, Pride 4

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The important thing about the sun is that the sun provides us with sunlight. I like that the sun helps plants do photosynthesis because when plants do photosynthesis, they make oxygen, and we need oxygen. I like that the sun keeps us warm and that’s good because if we weren’t warm, we would freeze. I like that the sun gives me summer, because without summer, we wouldn’t have Achieve. But the most important thing about the sun is that the sun provides us with sunlight.
 ~Ariel, Pride 5

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The important thing about Kirsten is that she leaves a smile on her face.
She is as short as a fun-size Snickers, but bursting with energy.
She is a wonderful mathematician, ready for a bunch of numbers.
She never likes sharing her work, a little selfish, I must say.
But the most important thing about Kirsten is that she leaves a smile on her face.
~Kirsten, Pride 4

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The important thing about me is that I’m a hard worker. I work on my basketball skills a lot, so that’s why I’m good at basketball. Also, whatever the obstacle that’s in my way, I never give up. I take it on and jump over that obstacle. Another thing is that I like working. It feels good to accomplish what I was aiming for. And to know that what I got was because I worked hard for it. But the important thing about me is that I’m a hard worker.
~Maxwell, Pride 4

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The important thing about me is that I am a great person to be around.
I can make you laugh when you’re down, to take your mind off of the thing you’re down about.
I can give you good advice from my experiences, that will probably help you, making you feel like you’re having your perfect day.
You’d feel safe and secure when you want to tell someone something because I’ll be that comfortable person you can tell.
I bring out the person you want to show people, that you can’t show people on your own.
But the most important thing about me is that I am a great person to be around.
~Maleek, Pride 4

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The important thing about my friends and family is that they are always by my side, through thick and thin.
My friends have many humorous, crazy, and intelligent characteristics that make them my friends. We have similar traits that make us bond. My friends always give me advice on activities I should do that they know will make me happy. They help me along the way. My family always enhance my self-confidence when I need them in troubling scenarios.
But the most important thing about my friends and family is that they are always by my side, through thick and thin.
~Empress, Pride 5

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The important thing about cheeseburgers is that they are awesome. When you bite into it you get a juicy taste. The smell makes your mouth water. If you ever eat a cheeseburger, you would never let it go to waste. Even when you are full, you still try to stuff yourself because it makes you happy. But the most important thing about cheeseburgers is that they are awesome.
~Christian, Pride 5

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The important thing about my mom is that she took, and will take care of me, for the rest of my life. My mom spent hours and days laboring me. My mom does everything possible for me, like getting out of work. She takes care of me by checking my temperature and asking how my day was every single day. But the most important thing about my mom is that she took, and will take care, of me.
~Jonathan, Pride 5

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The important thing about me is that I like being a reader.
I like being a reader because it’s interesting to learn new things.
I like being a reader because the books drag me into their pages.
I like being a reader because I like to explore new words and learn new vocabulary.
But the most important thing about me is that I like being a reader.
~Ruth, Pride 5

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The important thing about me is my individuality. I take something original and put my own spin on it to express my creativity. I might just sit and when something comes to me, I jot it down in my notebook. I am often on the opposite path of my friends, by stepping out of the cycle. But the most important thing about me is that I have my individuality.
~Tahjay, Pride 4

About Eric

I have been an educator at several independent schools in the Boston area since 2004. Currently, I teach math, create the master schedule for our middle school, run the outdoor program, design and lead international service learning trips, and coach soccer and wrestling. My personal and professional experiences have led me to value mission-driven schools distinguished by a strong focus on character, high academic standards, and broad co-curricular offerings. I am drawn to organizations that are open to self-evaluation and opportunities for growth and improvement. In my relationships with colleagues and students, I strive for mutual trust, respect, and support; open and honest communication; the frequent exchange of ideas; and clear delivery of feedback. As a school leader, I strive to empower my colleagues, cultivate shared vision, encourage passionate teaching, and create inspiring and transformational experiences for students.
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