Your One Thing – Lessons from City Slickers

I love the movie City Slickers.   Three middle-aged men, feeling unsatisfied with their life circumstances, decide to go on a cattle-drive themed vacation.  In one scene, Billy Crystal’s character, Mitch, finds himself alone with the crusty old lead cattleman, Curly (Jack Palance.)  Trying to bestow some life advice, Curly initiates the following conversation:

Curly:  Do you know what the secret of life is?  (He then holds up one finger.)

Mitch:  Your finger?

Curly:  One thing.  Just one thing.  You stick to that and the rest doesn’t matter.

Mitch:  But what is the “one thing?”

Curly:  That’s what you have to find out.

I’ve been thinking about this movie the last few days as I’ve been preparing to have a student teacher during second semester.  Her supervising college follows a collaborative teaching model, so we will be sharing the classroom for the next 16 weeks.  Sitting down to plan our first week together, I began to compose a “Things She Needs to Know” list.  As the list grew, the need to prioritize became apparent. What was the one thing that would help her have a successful experience?

After reflecting, I’ve decided that I need to have two classroom“one things”- one for our classroom community and one for academics.  The first “thing” is being kind – me reflecting kindness to my students, students showing kindness to me, and students demonstrating kindness to one another.  Many other positive traits fall under the umbrella of being kind – respect, responsibility, compassion, and empathy. 

What is the “one thing” for our classroom academically?  It would need to be providing time for purposeful practice.  As human beings, we enjoy activities when we are given the skills and time to learn to do these activities well.  Time to purposefully and safely practice skills and concepts is a gift I strive to give my students daily.

I’m curious to learn how my 4th graders will respond to the “One Thing” question.  I will divide the question into three parts – what is your one thing for a classroom, what is your one thing for learning, and what is your one thing at home?  I’ll be sharing their responses with you. We would love to learn your response to Curly’s question about the secret of life (or teaching!)

Happy Writing!