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About Learning for Real

As a teacher with 29 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the... Read more

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Learning From The Worst Person in the World

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.

Learning From the Worst Person in the World

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.

Learning From the Worst Person in the WorldLearning From the Worst Person in the World


Learning From the Worst Person in the WorldLearning From the Worst Person in the World

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.

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Mary Ruth McGinn

About Mary Ruth McGinn

As a teacher with 29 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the learning experiences and opportunities of students and their families.

Sixteen years ago she had an experience that changed her life and altered her professional path in a profound way. She attended training sessions at The Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York City, spent nine intense days living the process of creating an original opera and learned how to replicate the experience with her students. She then began creating opera with her students and using the process of creating the opera as a vehicle through which to teach curriculum and life skills. The authentic purpose for learning coupled with the arts provided the perfect stage on which to construct a love for life-long learning.

She currently teaches at Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery Village, Maryland where she is creating another original opera with her third grade students.

Read more of Mary Ruth’s blog Learning for Real.

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