Empathy and self-acceptance can be difficult to teach. The world of social media places so much pressure on our youth in terms of looks and our education system places pressure on marks (for the most part). We hear of more students needing mental health support because they cannot handle the pressures placed on them by friends, family, and even teachers. How then do we, as educators ease this pressure on students while still helping them to achieve their best? We remind them that being part of the Not Perfect Hat Club is what we all have access to in reaching our infinite possible “bests”.
What is this club I am speaking of? It is a soon to be released book and current global initiative that I feel honoured to part of along with my students and colleagues.
I was asked a while ago now to write a review for Jena Ball’s “The Not Perfect Hat Club” book. Just being asked to read the work of such an inspiring and creative individual is an honour in and of itself, but then I read the book – 5 times and cannot to wait read it yet again. It is not just a book that sends a strong message of embracing one’s uniqueness, it is a book that promotes a community of understanding.
Jena’s goal in writing this book is simple, it is “to give children stories and characters whose lives reflected their struggles with perfection; to help them celebrate what makes them unique” (p. 7). Within my heart, I believe that most educators enter our profession with a goal of inspiring young minds to achieve their greatest success. However, within my short experience as an educator, I feel that far too much of the pressure placed on students to achieve said success stems from academic achievement versus that of each child’s individual uniqueness.
To me, individual uniqueness mirrors the personalities of Jena’s leading character, Newton, a dog fighting to find his way in the world and wanting only to be loved and to be understood. Newton finds himself in scenarios where he is not fully understood because, well, he is a dog. His drive to be understood and to please others mirrors what I believe many students are wanting and wishing to do. It is this connection to the human world that makes this book extra special to the reader and especially those in the education system.
The honesty and emotion that one can draw from this book is simply outstanding. It speaks to what we often forget to look at as educators, emotional intelligence and the importance of empathy and self-awareness. Finding one’s self is a never ending journey and some would argue, that is the point of finding one’s self in and of itself. However, we must embrace the fact that each student that walks into our room is unique. Not because of their learning styles but because of WHO they are and where they may go in life. Perhaps Carl, Newton’s giver of shelter and food says it best: “people are like snowflakes – each one is different, and each one has to find his or her own way” (p. 22). It is our job as educators to foster a safe learning space where each student’s unique qualities can shine in conjunction with all those around them.
As an educator, I cannot stress how amazing this book is towards helping to promote a culture of empathy, self-awareness, and creativity. It is a book that can be read to or by any age group as the message is truly timeless.
Imagine if every student heard the message of the Not Perfect Hat Club? Oh the creativity and positive outcomes that we would see!
Yours in learning,
The Enthusiastic Learner
(As an aside, this book caused me to tear up a few times. That is how strong the message can be pending on your life’s events and emotional connection to Newton, Jabber, or even Midge.)