My seven year old son has been reading, actually devouring, Jeff Kinney’s uproarious Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The series chronicles in word and cartoon the life of unwitting protagonist, Greg Heffley, as he navigates the awkward territory known as adolescence, while sharing keen observations such as, “Let me just say for the record that I think middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented. You got kids like me who haven’t hit their growth spurt yet mixed in with these gorillas who need to shave twice a day.”
Much of the diary is focused on avoiding the debilitating disease known as the “Cheese Touch.” The Cheese Touch can only be contracted through direct contact with the piece of cheese that resides on the blacktop of the school basketball court. The origin of the cheese is unknown, but its presence has been instilling fear in the middle schoolers for two years! While Greg and his best friend Rowley are extraordinarily serious in their reverence for the cheese and its powers, the entire scenario is a source of sheer hilarity for the reader.
Cheese is not usually the source of inspiration or fear for me, but I had to laugh when my son told me about the dreaded Cheese Touch. He mentioned it just after I attended an Elluminate session with fellow team leaders in Powerful Learning Practice. During the session, there was much discussion about the very valid discomfort that teachers face when asked to change, and the fear that often accompanies new endeavors such as the use of social networks for learning. The instant message chat that was going on during the discussion was lively, and included Will Richardson’s brief reference to the motivational book Who Moved My Cheese?
Two mentions of powerful cheese in so short a period of time could hardly go unnoticed. The cheese allusions got me thinking about my own fears, concerns, and discomfort with the radical shifts that have been occurring in my professional life as of late. Over the last couple of years I have known that there was something lurking on the basketball court, in the hallways, and all around the grounds of Turpin High School; I have felt its presence but often ignored its importance. What was and is lurking is in fact not cheese, but change…
The truth that the diary reveals is that Greg Heffley is not a wimpy kid at all. He is a normal kid, a nice, funny, smart, creative kid with much to offer. We teachers who sometimes feel wimpy, surrounded by perceived gorillas of the Web 2.0 world are not at all wimpy, we are normal, nice, funny, smart and creative with so much to offer our students. I can attest that when the growth spurt starts to happen it is exciting, it is liberating, and it is often hilarious…there is a world out there waiting to amaze, delight, and inspire. What I promise is that if you allow yourself to reach out you will not be stricken with the Cheese Touch that causes people to run away from you in terror, rather you will contract the Change Touch that will bring people to you, learners and teachers of all kinds from around the globe, and will eliminate the walls of your classroom in an instant. There is definitely nothing wimpy about that!