"Would you guys mind if I stalled the math lesson a little?"
No one objected so I cued up this video. You've seen it before.
As it ran, a few kids glanced back at me, but, not wanting to cue their first reaction, I kept a blank face. It stopped and I asked for their thoughts.
The kids ragged on her a bit, as nearly all of us did in the weeks since the Miss Teen USA pageant. My first contribution to the discussion was to point out the exact moment the "meltdown" began, moving frame-by-frame to the point her eyelids first fluttered, to where she looks first stunned and very pitiable, as if Aimee Teegarden, the high schooler asking the question, had whacked her across the face with a brick.
I said, "I think there's something serious here and I hope you'll bear with me for a moment."
I drew a circle on the board and said, "All her life, Miss South Carolina has been in this circle. This circle is called … " and I wrote inside the circle, "P-R-E-T-T-Y."
"She knows she's in the pretty circle; her family and her friends have told her she's in the pretty circle; she goes in front of large audiences — the entire state at one point — and they've told her she's in the pretty circle."
"She has become very comfortable inside the pretty circle.
"Now I'm gonna draw another circle," I said, but first wrote the word "S-M-A-R-T" down on the board.
I asked, "How much does the SMART circle overlap the PRETTY circle?"
Several students yelled out, "Not at all!" to which I replied, "Well it's gotta overlap somewhere ," and gestured at my own body.
"But you're right," I said. "It doesn't overlap much."
"There are other circles, too," I said, and drew bubbles for ATHLETIC, ARTISTIC, FUNNY, NICE, and SOCIAL. "Sometimes they overlap a lot. Sometimes they only overlap a little."
"The point, guys, is that we are all born and pushed into one circle, and that circle either becomes our start or our grave."
"We all feel comfortable in one of these. If you're me, you felt great in the SMART circle. You've just come off eight years homeschooling and you can learn anything on your own. It's safe and easy in SMART and you don't much feel like leaving."
"But if you stay in a circle just because it's comfortable you become like Miss South Carolina. Miss South Carolina's biggest fault here is not that she's dumb.
"It's that she's boring.
"If you venture outside of where you are comfortable, if you pull a few of those smaller circles in towards your larger, comfortable circle, maybe making yourself both pretty and a little smart or nice and a little social, you make yourself the opposite of Miss South Carolina: you become someone that other people want to know.
How we spun an hour of math outta that sermon is the subject for another post.