CARPE DIEM: History, literature lessons basis for essay assignment

Published 1:15 am Saturday, March 23, 2019

Andalusia High School Senior English teacher Dawn Thompson might have been channeling here inner John Keating this week, when her students had an essay assignment that began with a lesson on Carpe Diem.

John Keating is Robin Williams’ character in the movie, “Dead Poets Society,” who tries to energize his students through poetry.

Thompson took her students to the Andalusia High School Heritage Room, started by The AHS Class of 1948, and long curated by Joe Wingard. The school board recently appointed Sue Bass Wilson the same task.

Thompson said she started with a photograph of the AHS Class of 1925.

“I told them, ‘They look just like you. They’re all 18. They’re excited. They have dreams and aspirations.’

“Then I ask them, ‘What do you think they’ve done with their lives?’ and we talk about ‘What is a good life?’ ”

Like the character John Keating, Thompson then reminded the current seniors that members of the Class of 1925 are all fertilizing daffodils now. Then she shares that class’s message to this one: “Carpe diem. Seize the day.”

Students also took the time to explore the Heritage Room, and many found information about their parents or grandparents.

While “Carpe diem” was the lesson this week, Thompson said it’s the banner in her classroom.

“This is very important for seniors,” she said. “They get so focused on the future and what’s ahead they miss the best parts of their senior year.”

After considering poems with the them “Carpe diem,” the students also listen to songs.

“I play, ‘Live Like You are Dying,’ and ‘I Hope you Dance,’ ” she said. “Then I let the kids suggest songs.”

After the lesson, the students are required to compare two poems or songs  for an essay.