I Can’t

The fourth grade teacher distributed sheets of paper to the class.  She asked every student to write down all the things that they believed they could not do, wished they could do or wanted to do.  Each student went to work writing down their “can’ts.”  I can’t kick a soccer ball the right way.  I can’t do long division with more than three numbers.  I can’t get home on time.  I can’t get Debbie to like me.  Even the teacher made a list.  I can’t get Dan’s mother to come to parent/teacher conference.  I can’t get my daughter to put gas in the car.  I can’t get Allen to use words instead of fists.

Students and teacher wrote for about 10 minutes.  Then the students were instructed to fold their sheets in half and bring them to the front of the room.  There they placed their “I can’t” list in an empty shoebox.  After adding her own list, the teacher put the lid on the box, tucked it under her arm and with her fourth graders in tow, marched out the door, down the hall and out to the playground.  In the furthest corner of the playground, each student took a turn digging the hole.  They were going to bury their “I can’ts”.  When they finished, the box was placed in the center of the freshly dug grave.  Then the teacher announced, “boys and girls, please join hands and bow your heads.”  The teacher then delivered this eulogy. “Friends, we are gathered here today to honor the memory of “I can’t.”  While he was here on earth, he touched the lives of everyone, some more than others.  We have provided “I can’t” with a final resting place and a headstone that contains the epitaph.  He is survived by his brothers and sisters, “I can, I will, I’m going to right away.”  They are not as well know as their famous relative and are certainly not as strong and powerful yet.  Perhaps, someday, with our help, they will make an even bigger mark on the world.  May “I can’t” rest in peace and may everyone present pick up their lives and move forward in his absence. Amen.”

The teacher then marched her students back to the classroom and held a wake for the “I can’t” with cookies, popcorn and juice.  As part of the celebration, the teacher cut a large tombstone our of paper and wrote the words, “I can’t” at the top, with R.I.P. in the middle and the date at the bottom.  The paper tombstone hung in the classroom for the rest of the year.  On those rare occasions, when a student forgot and said, “I can’t,” the teacher simply pointed to the tombstone.  The student then remembered that “I can’t” was dead and tried again.

We need to believe that we can!

via eMail, Sat, 18 Dec 1999 18:02:54 EST