Having been teaching for a decade, there are certain books and materials that capture my attention, both as a teacher as well as a human. Since I’ve started teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird”, it has easily become my favorite book to teach. Every year that I stroll back into the sleepy town of Maycomb, I learn something new. Maybe it’s merely because I didn’t notice that particular detail before, and maybe it’s because I’m one year older and I’m affected differently by the same details. Whatever the reason, there are more life lessons per page in this book than any other book I teach, or that I have personally read. In many ways, my own personal morals and and codes of conduct have been molded and created by Atticus Finch and his world. I will share some of the more important ones:
1. Try your best to see things from other people’s point of view.
2. Don’t judge people until you have put yourself in their shoes and experienced what they deal with in life.
3. Recognize and appreciate what true courage is. Courage may not be a man with a gun in his hand, but a little old lady quietly and bravely fighting an illness. It wears many different masks.
4. Recognize, respect and appreciate the “mockingbirds” in life; the people who enrich this world and make it a better place to live. Value and protect innocence, and do everything you can to protect it against the evils in this world.
5. Never be afraid to fight for the right thing, even if you know you are going to lose. Go down swinging.
6. Integrity is doing the right thing, especially when no one is looking.
7. Understand the meaning of the word “compromise.” It will take you far in dealing with people of all ages, and they will respect you for trying to see their perspective. (see #1)
8. The affect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.
9. Be consistent in relationships in your life. Try your best to treat everyone equally, and maintain your character whether or not you think others are watching or listening. They are.
10. Learn the art of forgiveness. Sometimes even if someone spits in your face, hold your head up high, and remember your pride and who you are. Don’t let other people rent space in your head.
I alway try to teach this book earlier in the year because it sets the foundation for how I want my students (and myself!) to hold themselves accountable. The principles taught in this book give us a good basis for the code each and every one of us should strive to reach. We won’t achieve it all the time, but like anything, with practice and reinforcement, we can slowly become the person we want to be.
The world needs more people like Atticus.