Critically acclaimed children’s book author James Stevenson created a character years ago who has become a great source for inspiration and instruction in our third grade class. As you might imagine, The Worst Person in the World possesses those negative qualities most would choose to reject in a human being, but in the end, after experiencing a cathartic metamorphosis, The Worst endears himself to us, and we find ourselves “a little changed” too.
The protagonist of the tale, a true optimist, cleverly named Ugly, tries everything in his power to win over the old curmudgeon. Seeing how distinctly different these two characters view the world, led us to discuss and explore the perspectives of the optimist and the pessimist.
How do we see the world? Why does it matter? Not only are these questions critical to discovering ourselves and who we really are, but also, they inform our decisions in creating character, character motivation and character relationships for our opera.
What character traits might an optimist possess? A pessimist? How would these traits affect who we are, how others see us or what we become?
The students listed traits they thought might accompany the two personality types, then created a bulletin board to display their thinking.
Reading the same piece of literature multiple times to teach various objectives is common practice throughout our process. When students know a book well, they are able to analyze, interpret, synthesize, reflect and evaluate on a profound level. Understanding deepens. Real learning transpires. The Worst becomes our greatest teacher.