Last Rites: the sacrament Catholics perform for the dying usually isn’t given to babies. Fortunately for me, I’ve managed to outlive the life expectancy bestowed upon me by the Pasadena city hospital priest and the doctor.
Coils of vibrant red umbilical cord strangled me as doctors struggled to free me from my mother’s womb. Medical technology in the mid 1960s wasn’t what it is today and the sight of a black and blue baby not breathing as he emerged into this world tore my mother’s heart in two as they called for the hospital priest. He baptized me on the spot and then rushed straight into the ritual of Last Rites.
I somehow managed to survive.
For the next week I lived in an incubator and under strict medical care. When the time came to release me from the hospital my father was so happy, until he entered the financial office and they handed him the bill.
See, my dad and mom were immigrants to this county. Neither speaks English as their native language. They didn’t even own a car. So when the hospital showed my dad the bill he was at a loss for how to pay such a huge bill without any medical insurance.
“Perhaps I can make payments?” my dad offered.
“I’m sorry sir, we can’t release your wife and son until you pay the bill in full,” snapped the cashier.
“You mean they will have to stay here until I can pay the whole bill?” My dad was strangely bemused and if you knew him, you would see, by the twinkle in his eye, he had spotted a loophole.
“You mean you guys will keep my wife clean and warm and fed three times a day and I can visit whenever I want? That’s great! Thanks! We don’t have a lot to eat at home so that makes me really happy. See you tomorrow.” And he practically skipped out the door.
“Wait Mr. Theriault… “
“Thank you!” he yelled as he headed down the hallway.
The cashier looked desperate- he called out “Maybe you can make payments!”
My dad slowly turned around… a wry smile slowly emerged… “oh yeah, maybe I can make payments- I think I can afford twenty dollars a month.”
Our families’ stories define who we are and evoke memories of ours and others cultural myths. Whether it’s the stories of Greek mythology, Nordic mythology, or even the Old Testament, we learn to recognize ourselves and find solutions to problems that have existed as long as man has.
Every year the sophomore students study world mythology. In my 10th grade honors class we read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology for summer reading. When the students get back we recap the myths. I have them read this handout on the importance of myths and then I assign our first presentation/product the:
MYTH OF ME
I like doing this early in the year because it not only allows the students to share and learn about each other’s personal stories, which helps build community, but (let’s face it)- it makes the room look bright and inviting making a great “parent pleaser” on back-to-school night. The first time I assigned this I made my own version. It helps to see what they are up against. I used my version to illustrate what I wanted to from them. When I did this activity the second year I took pictures of my favorite ones from year ONE and then made a PPT of those pictures to show students what I expected. THIS IS CRUCIAL: If you want students to make something great, you need to show them great examples that are made by their peers. Seeing excellent work done by students at their school shows them not only my expectations, but that it’s possible to be amazing. Here are the specifics:
- Worth 50 points (I make it worth about half a major project/test grade because I want them to take this seriously- I also offer them extra credit if the artwork or presentation is amazing.
- I talk about types of myths- cultural, religious, super hero. I remind them about the importance of myths and how they can relate to our own stories
- The type of myth can be based on topicality, cultural significance or interest. They don’t have to do a culturally significant myth. Some students either base their story on comic book heroes, manga or even make up their own myth story to serve as the allusion.
- The genre of art should have some significance. Examples below.
- Presented to the whole class using the Elmo (document camera) If you don’t have a document camera they could take pictures and then you could use a digital projector.
- Students must turn in a typed paper with the following questions answered.
- Why did you pick this myth to represent you?
- Why did you pick this particular artistic style or genre?
- Describe your research process for choosing your myth- websites, books etc…
- What choices did you discard and why?
- Which choice was the hardest to discard and why?
The photo galleries below are all thumbnails. You can click on the thumbnail to see a larger image. I’ve highlighted a few for various reasons explained below.
As always in my assignments you can tweak it to meet your areas of interest or just take a risk aka think outside the box. Almost all students put their myth of me projects on 8×11 paper or card stock. This student, Ashley, decided to paint the Myth of Me project on a canvas:
This student, Julia, took it one further and put her Myth of Me on a fan:
And this student, Tiffany, decided to stitch her Myth of Me project
And this one by Lucia was just RAD- and her story was so cool.
I’ll post a picture later today of what it looks like when they are all displayed on the classroom wall. Thanks for reading.