We play this game in class with the last few minutes on Fridays. I call it “Who Am I?” but really it’s just “20 Questions,” and only sometimes do I make them choose Greek and Roman mythological characters. One student leaves the room while the rest of us decide which person he or she is.
They love making boys goddesses and girls gods.
And so we’ll choose a character and call the exile in. He or she will commence asking yes-or-no questions until eventually it becomes clear who he or she is supposed to embody.
The thing I keep noticing is this response from the rest of the students.
Let’s say it’s a girl, and she only knows that she’s from mythology, she’s male, and she’s not a god. Her next question might be:
“Did I defeat a lion?”
Every time, the rest of the class guffaws in disbelief.
How could you ask that question?
Oh my gosh…!
I didn’t quite understand what was happening until this week.
While one student stands ignorant in front of her classmates, the rest of them can only function with their knowledge. They’ve forgotten (in the span of about .65 minutes) that not everyone has the same information they have. This student asks “Did I defeat a lion?” with less knowledge than they have, but with enough to wonder, hmmmm…maybe I’m Hercules…
Student: “Did I get punished by the gods?”
Student: “Did I become an animal?”
After a few rounds of this teeheeing and finger-pointing, finally I stood up.
“Listen, guys,” I said, “you have to remember that she doesn’t know what you know. Her questions make complete sense because she doesn’t know already that she’s Theseus. The question only sounds crazy to you because you already know.”
I have this vision of something big and grand that would open high schooler’s eyes to the great wonderful world. I have this idea that our faith is too small, too cultural, and that to get these kids out where Christianity looks different but transforms just the same is part of my job.
I look at my students, and I want to dump every ounce of experience and wisdom I’ve gained through trial and error into their beings so that they don’t have to do it themselves.
I wonder how parents do it. How do you watch these little half-yous-but-not-at-all-yous walk the earth and not suffocate them? How do you let them function in their ignorance? And it isn’t ignorance in the negative way, so much as it is a stage.
You can’t force experience.
RIght, you can’t, but what is experience if not created?
How do you not expect your children, your students, to be in the same place you are?
I am constantly reminding myself that I function at a different level than these young minds and souls I teach.
They don’t know who they are.
They walk into the room, and they don’t know who they are, so their questions, the way they interact, might seem strange to me, the one who has just a bit more knowledge.
The one who progressed smoothly (and not so smoothly) through the stages of growth to arrive at a non-arrival where things are still being worked-out.
Even people all the same age are not in the same place. Whether it be actually (some are married, some are single, some have children, some travel the world) or just internally (some feel confident, some love their jobs, some long for more, some have faith that pumps life), we are all spinning on different trajectories.
And that’s okay.
I will never have the calmness of my high school friend, who, when I asked her, “What do we have to look forward to?”, said:
“Well, I’m a pretty content person. So I don’t know what to say.”
That will never be me.
We’re spinning different stories, but we’re both playing our own games of “Who Am I?”.