To Be or Not To Be – That is the Question


“To be or not to be” – Hamlet

To be thankful or to not be thankful

To be studious or to not be studious

To be healthy or to not be healthy

To be committed to personal growth or to not be growing

To be training for the Peachtree Road Race or to not run between now and July 4th (Barber translation)

In one of Shakespeare’s most famous scenes, Hamlet asks a question with which we all wrestle, and the secret to the answer to this question has to do with the way the question is structured. Hamlet struggles with the purpose of life and the reasons for living, and the way we as adults choose to live our lives in relation to purpose impacts the next generation. We can either choose “to be” something or “to not be” something.

As teachers and parents, we spend a lot of time instructing our students in how “to not be.”

to not be lazy.

to not be mean to your brother or sister.

to not be eating all of that junk food (like red velvet cupcakes – totally hypothetical).

to not be wasting time reading Twilight (sorry, I’m a hater, I know).

The “to not be”s have their place in instruction and life but should not be overshadowed by the “to be”s. (Good grief, I’m starting to sound like Hamlet). Sadly, many students get an overdose of the “to not be”s and live a life of not being; unfortunately, not being one thing doesn’t automatically make you something else.

Not being ungrateful doesn’t automatically make you thankful.

Not being mean doesn’t automatically make you kind.

Not being apathetic doesn’t automatically make you enthusiastic.

As adults leading the next generation, we need to be careful that we are not just telling our youth what not to do but what to do. Instead, let’s teach them

To be thankful

To be kind

To be caring

To be reading Harry Potter instead of Twilight

Teaching “to be” is much more time consuming and difficult than teaching “to not be” because “to be” requires lots of ongoing conversations and time spent with us “being” and “not being.”

Being thankful means I have to actively look for things to be thankful for and take time to share these with my student(s).

Being kind means I have to find ways to do kind things for others and offer my student(s) the opportunities to do the same.

Being committed to reading quality literature means that I have to carve out time to do this and share what I learn with my student(s) and suggest or even provide the resources for them to do the same.

Living a life of not being is surely the greatest tragedy. “To be or not to be – that is the question . . .”

What is one way you can encourage the next generation “to be” this week?

2 responses to “To Be or Not To Be – That is the Question

  1. “To be deliberate” will be my focus at school and at home this week. While reviewing test prep strategies and skills (something I’m not so passionate about as a teacher), I want my students to focus on the tasks – all parts of it. As a parent, I want my kid to work on deliberate organization. Thanks for the paradigm shift!!

    • Being deliberate is hard because of the “urgent” things that drowned out the day. I am trying to be more deliberate at work and at home also! Thanks for sharing!

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