Beginnings are subtle things. You never really know when something great is about to start. You may sense that something special is going to happen but you’re never quite prepared for what is to come. That is how I would describe my first day in my sophomore year in high school.
I was lucky enough, along with 24 other students, to be part of an honors program at Arvada West High School, called Honors Humanities. Without going into too much detail here, it was basically a team-taught advanced course. We had two amazing teachers, one for English and one for History, though they taught us much more than that!
The course was designed to teach holistically every aspect of a given period and to enable students to synthesize information. Rather than learning about the Revolutionary War in one class and then reading the Grapes of Wrath in another, we studied the whole of a period in tandem. So, we read Greek tragedies, while learning about classical architecture and the seeds of democracy, etc. And so on for every era.
It was the most incredible ways to learn and I feel that in some ways that early education prepared me for life more so than anything after. There are lessons from then that I still reference today. But let’s get back to things here. Why am I waxing nostalgic for my high school class? Because of the greatest gift it gave us.
Our love of quotes.
Every day before any “real teaching” began we had Q&A. Not that kind of Q&A. This was Quotes and Announcements. See, all of us students would come in, go straight to the two huge white boards on the side of the room, and write up a quotation we wanted to share with the class. It could be anything from any source, said or written by any person. And any announcements we wanted to share too.
Then each of us would read out loud our quote to the rest of the class and explain why this quote intrigued/annoyed/inspired or otherwise touched us enough to want to share it. A discussion may have followed if others wanted to comment on the quote. Otherwise we’d move to the next quote. This could last for over an hour if the discussion was heated enough – and sometimes it was.
What was the whole point? Was this merely wasting the precious time needed to memorize all the dry and dull facts that the SAT required us to know? Oh no, this was the glue that began to bond us young strangers together over the course of the next three years. Q&A was less about showing off our literary skills and more about opening and awakening our minds to the world.
Of course, there was the usual Ghandi quote about changing the world, because we were young and idealistic enough to know that spoke to each of us. But there were more satiric quotes from Oscar Wilde, and everything in between. Over the years, I believe each of us accumulated hundreds, nay, THOUSANDS of quotes that we now cherish. But I guarantee none of us, from any of the classes through the years will forget our very first Q&A quote:
That was not just a discussion topic. That was the only rule. We could disagree but never disrespect. And yes, there were definitely disagreements, but in the end, we still honored each other as fellow travelers along the same journey of self-discovery. So we quoted, and discussed, and argued, and laughed! It was a wonderful time and many days, I miss some Q&A.
Thus…I’m reinstating it! I’m going to use my 31 Days of October to have an interwebs version of Q&A and invite you all to participate.
How it’s going to work:
Every day I’ll supply one quote along a theme and give a brief (shorter than today’s post) description of why the quote spoke to me and they you are encouraged to give me your thoughts in the comments below. The only hard and fast rule – no disrespect in the replies. I want to inspire a good discussion, not angry feelings. And most of the quotes should either make you think, laugh or both.
So let’s begin – what do you think of today’s quote by Voltaire?
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