I had the speech all prepared. I walked into the conference room with my group of six fifth graders, ready to console them when the principal would turn down their request to go on a field trip to visit the Mark Twain House. I had already been told that morning it would be a “no”.
They call themselves the Mysterious Manning Society. We started off with fourteen students, all interested in being part of a book club that met once a week during their lunch time. I offered three choices of books based on their interests and we settled on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
When we first started reading the book, I mentioned that the author had lived in Hartford (less than a half-hour drive from the school) and his house was now a museum. We all agreed it would be cool to go visit at the time, but didn’t pursue the idea.
We are now down to six members who have persevered through fence painting, Tom and Becky’s engagement, Injun Joe, runaway pirates, and Tom attending his own funeral, stolen treasure, and courtroom drama. The idea of visiting the museum had morphed into more than just an idea.
I explained to them that it was an unusual request – a field trip for only six students. We would have to persuade the teachers, the principal, the curriculum director, maybe even the Superintendent. But why not try? My consolation speech already began taking form in my head.
I was going to tell them to think of themselves as a river – the water that flows downstream to a destination. The principal and others were the boulders in the way. The water does not stop, it simply finds a way around the boulders. We would not get to go on the field trip, but we could always pick a day during the summer and tour the house together. It would be a life lesson, a teachable moment for handling disappointment.
I was the one who learned a lesson. In perseverance and persuasion. See for yourself:
How could anyone say no after that?
The field trip is booked.
The river didn’t go around the boulders. It pushed the boulder aside.