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  • Writer's pictureMax Melby

Harold: Finding 2e Students in Media

I recently got started listening to an audiobook that absolutely screamed 2e students to me and I feel like I have to share it because I know that some people in our community will connect with it- whether it's just a bit of catharsis or a seed that grows into something else.

The audiobook is Harold, written and narrated by the comedian Steven Wright. If you aren't familiar with Steven Wright, you should know that he's an incredibly unique and influential comedian. Wright has a wonderfully strange way of looking at the world and he shares that perspective with deadpan delivery and surprising one-liners (e.g. "All those who believe in psychokinesis, raise my hand"). I was so excited to get my hands (ears) on this book- it was released in mid-May, so it's still a pretty fresh title.

Wright describes the book as, "the meandering, surreal, often hilarious, and always thought-provoking stream-of-consciousness ruminations of the title character during a single day in class." The book isn't necessarily autobiographical, but you can tell that Wright is writing from experience. About 20 minutes into the audiobook, I had marked three timestamps because I felt like Harold was any number of students I've had at Arete over the last nine years. I have shared a brief excerpt from the book below, but a couple of notes are necessary first!

  • I have not read or listened to the whole audiobook yet- I can't co-sign or recommend the whole book or its views! That said, Wright has a voice like no one else and the audiobook is a good choice.

  • I don't have the rights to reproduce this work. I'm hoping that sharing this text with you falls within the Fair Use Doctrine. If it doesn't, I'll take down the blog post.

  • As far as I know, Steven Wright does not claim to be gifted, neurodivergent, or anything of the sort- but Harold's self-awareness below feels familiar. This may not be universal across all 2e educators or parents, but I know that I have spent a great deal of time using analogical thinking and metaphors to foster metacognitive skills in 2e students. I tend to start by getting a sense of where a student's skills and understanding are at and then finding a common language to use together. In the text below, Wright gives us a very clear starting point for how Harold conceptualizes how his brain works.

  • All you need to know for the text below is that Harold is a 3rd-grade student whose mind wanders throughout a class period.

From Harold by Steven Wright:

[Harold] felt the way his mind worked was that there were thousands and thousands and thousands of tiny birds in his head and each bird represented a single thought.

There was also a little very very small rectangle in the middle of his brain. Like an empty window frame or an empty picture frame. The birds were much smaller than the frame. They were flying all around randomly in his mind which was like an indoor sky.

When one of these birds flew through the rectangle whatever thought that bird represented that's what Harold would think about. That's why it seemed like he would jump from subject to subject. It was because of the birds and the rectangle.

For instance, a bird that represented lifeboats once flew through the rectangle. So Harold was now thinking about lifeboats which led to this:

There were 25 kids in the class -what if they were on a ship that was sinking? He figured that a lifeboat could only take 20 people so which 5 kids wouldn't get on? Slowly he looked around the room trying to imagine who would be the lucky ones. This reminded him of the tragedy of the Titanic. Not nearly enough lifeboats.

And then the fact that the sinking of the ship, April 15, 1912, knocked the opening of Fenway Park that same week out of the headlines. Which caused him to wonder how Carl Yastrzemski would do next season.

That bird started a tangent festival in Harold's head. A tangent festival. Who would ever have known that the subject of lifeboats would lead to the left fielder for the Boston Red Sox.

Harold by Steven Wright

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 16, 2023)

Length: 256 pages

ISBN13: 9781668022696

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