To illustrate an important point in this book, Gilbert tells the story of an American artist who goes to Paris to be inspired. One day he finds himself at a cafe and meets some charming aristocrats. In the course of their conversation, they invite the American to a costume party at a castle in the Loire Valley. Being the starving artist that he was, he had to use his creativity and ingenuity to come up with a costume for the party.
Upon his arrival, he immediately realized that he missed something in translation of the invitation: the costume party was a theme party -- a medieval court. Everyone was dressed in period gowns and were dripping with jewels. The young American came dressed as... a lobster, replete with red tights, a painted red face, and giant foam claws.
At this moment, the young American had two choices: run away in shame, or stay and risk the torment of being the only one not dressed like everyone else. In that moment, he decided to descend the stairs and join the party. In so doing, he ended up being the life of the party and even danced with the queen of Belgium.
I read this story to my students this week. They wrote about it in their writer's notebooks and we talked about it as a class. As I discussed this story with all three of my 8th grade classes, there was the inevitable suggestion that, "Hey! Let's all dress as lobsters for Halloween!" Or, "We should all go to homecoming dressed as lobsters next year!" As some students nodded their heads in assent or verbally expressed their enthusiasm, I immediately thought to myself that some of them had missed the point.
So the next day, I brought in the picture book The Hueys in the New Sweater by Oliver Jeffers. This is a book about a group of people who are all the same. Until one day one of the Hueys decides to knit a sweater and be different than everyone else. At first the Hueys are horrified, but eventually the sweater catches on, and then this happens:
So now the new mantra in our classroom is BE THE LOBSTER. But let's make an important distincton here -- "be THE lobster." Not "be A lobster." When given the choice to be like everyone else dressed in gowns and jewels, walk down those stairs into the ball wearing your red tights and giant foam claws and dance with the queen of Belgium. Put yourself out there. Be vulnerable. Don't be like the Hueys.
Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres