About Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, at http://jenniferwolfe.net, and grab a free copy of "8 Tips For A Successful School Year" while you're there.

This month, my students are learning to see the differences in the world. They’re reading The Giver, a dystopian novel written by Lois Lowry  in the 1990s. The Giver relates the story of Jonas, a 12 year-old boy living in a community of sameness, a community in which there is no color, no differences, no love.

For my 8th graders, Jonas’s world is unimaginable.

We start by talking about the meaning of the word ‘utopia’, and then they proceed to create their own society; with few guidelines from me, my students decide on a founding principle, laws and government, education policy, responsibilities of the residents, monetary systems, methods of transportation, housing structures and types of entertainment – and it doesn’t stop there.

Their imaginations are so big, their hope so enormous, that they create the most fabulous utopias I’ve ever seen. Within their worlds, today’s problems are not only conquerable, but solved. In my students’ utopias, their ability to see everything wrong as fixable, and everything right as illuminating is truly awe inspiring.

JW 3

They are so much more visionary than anyone making decisions about our country today. It gives me hope. Click To Tweet

A common thread in their utopias is the acknowledgment and acceptance of differences. My students don’t live in a colorblind world; they don’t model their JW 1ideal society after the society we have created in America. These children understand the value in difference. They recognize that our America is changing, and change, unlike in Jonas’s world, is good.

These 13 year-olds willingly create worlds where people are honored for their abilities and their strengths, not torn down because they might have a different color of skin or love someone of their own gender. Click To Tweet They creatively concoct ways to acquire education, ideas to solve poverty and homeless, and strategies to keep their society functioning and safe. That’s not to say that their societies are without the negative aspects of humanity; even in their youth, they recognize that evil exists and that people will make bad choices.

JW 2But these kids are problem solvers. They aren’t comfortable with ambiguity – they have answers, and they aren’t afraid to share them. And before you think that within my classroom exists homogeneity, think again. I have a diverse group of humans of different genders, religions, and countries of birth. I have boys and girls and those who are questioning their gender identity. I have students who come from college educated parents, and those who haven’t graduated high school

I have, in this group, a little utopia of my own; a group we should all be listening to.

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