Sunday, April 13, 2014

Anne Frank: A Heroine for Today's Teen

You are going into hiding for two years.  You have ten minutes to pack your school backpack.  What are you going to bring?  

This is how I start my Diary of Anne Frank unit.  Confronted with the unthinkable concept of stuffing everything they own into a JanSport, the students are immediately riveted.  Then of course comes the inevitable question – “I can take my iPhone right?”

As the educational pendulum continues to push out longer literary works in favor of shorter informational texts, I maintain The Diary of Anne Frank is worth the read and a relevant mainstay in the middle school classroom canon.   

Against a background of unbelievably horrific events, students are continually captivated by the diary’s universal talking points of family, survival, nobility, adolescence, identity and courage.  Students are especially interested in Anne’s periodic tensions with her mother, her growing romance with Peter, and of course the inordinate amount of bravery needed to survive life in the attic and an unknowing future. 

Perhaps it is Anne’s profound life quotes revealing wisdom beyond her years that pull at my students’ heartstrings -

 “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

 “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

“I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

“Whoever is happy will make others happy.”

And finally the most heartfelt, and profound, that epitomizes Anne’s magnanimous persona:
“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

The Diary of Anne Frank triumphs in today’s classroom because of the essence of our young author’s message:  Hope in the face of adversity.  Perhaps best stated by one of my students, “Anne Frank has inspired me to live life to the fullest and never lose hope no matter what.”

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