Firstly, Happy Mother’s Day! And on that note please do read my mother’s blog post below even if you do not finish mine. The closing paragraph is simply crushing!
Tonight I am moved. I experienced something last week with my dozen Hong Battle of the Books (HKBOB) students that was staggering. We entered our first ever Jewish school for the semi-finals. We are accustomed to security standards at international schools’ entrances at varying levels of invasion but this exceeded all of our expectations. The metal detectors were on par with the aviation industry. Nothing like a good pat down with your mocha to start your school day! I noted after about the 5th student that it was taking about one minute per student and traffic being what it was this further delay would make us late to the venue. One of my students commented, “Mr McEntire don’t you think this is a little over the top?” To which I replied with a healthy dose of sarcasm and a slight roll of the eyes, “You could say that.” Then for just a moment I paused, pondered, and reflected. I was coming to a ‘Eureka’ at the precise moment one of my students said, “I’m Jewish.” The feeling of overwhelming context was so profound that I literally had to steady myself against a wall. We had tension, the palpable kind of tension that I believe Bill Ferriter referred to in his recent blog when he said, “I’m convinced that tension is the source of all original learning.” This people group felt it was only prudent to put into place the protection and precautions we encountered. The discussion that ensued as the last 8 of us filed in was deep, exploratory, with a robust vibe of reconciliation. True authentic and holistic learning at its best, full of emotion, jolting. The proverbial unrehearsed teachable moment.
When I shook the Director’s hand after moderating a glorious set of battles celebrating reading and literature, I can honestly say I have never been so thankful to a school opening up its doors to host such an event. The IB learner profile descriptor “risk taker” just falls so flat. And I walked away galvanized that International Battle of the Books must be a bridge for children of all faiths and no faiths in all corners of the globe to read the same titles to perhaps get a glimpse of one another and then engage in friendly battles so that maybe, just maybe, they will develop enough compassion and understanding to avoid real battles down the road when their worlds collide. In IBOB everyone wins, in real war everyone loses. And at that point in their lives there will be no metal detectors to prevent the pain.