Dear Jacob Aronin,
My son told me all about how you had all of your students line up outside of your language arts classroom in alphabetical order before marching them inside and assigning them numbers which replaced their names. You spent the rest of the day addressing them by their assigned numbers as you introduced the latest assigned reading --George Orwell's 1984. You also instructed the class that as you read the book aloud, every time you came upon the word "Big Brother" everyone should say it in unison, like programmed robots.
"Big Brother?" "The Thought Police?" Were these terms really coming from my eighth grader's mouth as he recapped his school day? What's going on in Mr. Aronin's class?
I couldn't believe my ears as my 13-year-old son described yet another assigned reading of a book describing a community where everything was black and white and color did not exist. No one was allowed to speak of differences and no one ever felt love or hate. In this community the children were raised by parents who were chosen for them, careers were appointed and life partners were selected for them.
Within four hours of hearing this description I had found Lois Lowry's book, The Giver and devoured it without blinking. The message from this book still haunts me to this day, and I find myself thinking... Where was Mr. Aronin when I was growing up?
My son, who believes books are boring and prefers learning from YouTube videos over reading instructions, has actually been reading and discussing the books and thought provoking themes you have introduced to him.
We talk. No, we don't just talk about how much money he needs for his field trip or what kind of shoes he created on Nike ID that day. My son and I wax philosophy, discuss alternate book endings and the role each person chooses to play in society.
I'll admit that sometimes I am so busy chasing my own dreams and trying to stay afloat that I am not completely focused on sharing the life-changing influence of the kind of literature you introduce into my son's life. I am a non-custodial parent, and I can't always be there physically to be an influence, yet I am so glad that you are.
For that I have to say thank you, Jacob Aronin.
Thank you for the warm up exercises you offer your students where you write a thought-provoking quote on the board and challenge them to think about it, reword it or respond to it. I see what you're doing: You're creating a legion of critical thinkers.
Thank you for being a man who took the time to direct the women's history program, teaching my son the importance of women like Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt -- both women who influenced our society. This teaches my son to admire and respect women. Thank you for pushing my son to expand his vocabulary and challenging my son to think about more than the color of his sneakers. Thank you for planting seeds of independent thinking within a social system that discourages it.
Mr. Aronin, the next time you find yourself standing with one foot flat on the ground and the other foot a few inches behind on your tippy toe, passionately waving your hands as you speak, pony tail flopping from side to side, remember that your students at the Center for Intellectually Talented Youth at Parkway Middle School in Lauderhill, Florida are listening, they are taking it in and they are passing it on.
My son says he learned the word "flabbergasted" from you. Yes, when I hear about the lessons you teach, I am.
Follow Te-Erika Patterson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MySavvySisters