I’ve Seen The Future

One downside of teaching is that we never get to see the final chapters in our students’ stories. Some of us are lucky to see students grow over time before they transition on to the next stage of their life, and as a teacher with 24 years in the classroom I have witnessed teens in my care grow to become adults, have careers, and even provide me with the next generation of students.

As a teacher of skills-based health I have to play the long game. I am introducing and practicing health skills that I hope allow my students to have a long, healthy, happy and productive life long after I am gone. Like all teachers I am planting trees under whose shade I will never sit.

I often quote a past student of mine who wrote something so profound that I have a poster made of his words on display in my teaching space and I share his words with all of my students. He wrote – “In health, it’s not just about getting an A in the class, it’s about getting an A in life.” 

IA grade (1)f my students do indeed live long and healthy lives and award themselves that ‘A grade’ I’ll never get to see it.

At least that’s what I thought until I tried an activity with my students that not only allowed me to see into the future, but has enabled me to frame my teaching in a way that is more personal to each of my students.

This activity was shared with me by Jeffery E. Frieden from his blog post in which he attributes this activity to  Dave Stuart Jr. in his new book These Six Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most.

Positive Identity Index Cards

I gave my students an index card and asked them to write their name on the front. I talked about my envy of the bullet-journalers who I follow on Instagram and their wonderful penmanship. Students were encouraged to write their name in a style that represented them and spent 2/3 minutes perfecting this side of the card.

I then asked students to turn the card over and write a response to the following prompt:

When it’s all done and dusted, and you’ve lived a healthy, happy and productive life, how do you wish to be remembered? What will people say about you, what words will they use to describe you, what will you have achieved that made the most impact?

As I will be incorporating journaling in my classes for the first time this was an opportunity for me to see how comfortable students were in reflecting and responding to an open-ended prompt. And it was a hit!

Students wrote for 6-8 minutes, but those that finished early could continue to flourish the front side of the card.

What my students wrote revealed a lot about them and gave me hope for the future. Too often we, and our students, hear about ‘kids today’ in a negative way but believe me, reading these cards let me know that the future is in good hands.

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Modeling vulnerability in my classroom I read my own response to the class before asking brave volunteers to share their response. Each class had three students willing to share what they wrote before I asked the class to get into small groups and share their writing in a smaller setting. Students were tasked to identify common themes among the group which were then reported back to the class. Kindness, caring and service to others were mentioned frequently. Learning from mistakes and stepping outside of their comfort zone came up more than I expected.

So where do I go with this? Well, firstly what students have given me is what their “A in life” looks like. They’ve given me the rubric for their long, healthy and happy life. What I need to do now is identify the behaviors and skills needed to allow students to get that A grade and make sure that I address those in class.

I also used these index cards as the first journal prompt of the semester asking students to consider the behaviors and habits that they currently have that are enabling them to live the life to which they aspire. I purchased these journals for students not wanting to source their own.

Students could also identify areas for improvement which in turn can be used to introduce the skill of goal-setting.

Journal Prompts.jpg

Because these cards are so aspirational, I have encouraged students to pin them up in their lockers and have challenged them to come back to me as they near graduation to report back on their progress towards that ‘A’ grade.

Reading these cards also reminded me just how lucky I am to be teaching these students. I tell my students that I expect them to be future policy makers, hirers and firers and leaders. I expect my students to make a difference in life. Having read their words, I believe that many of my students WILL go on to make a difference in the world.

Our student mascot is a “Trevian” and this year we are considering what it means to be a #HealthyTrev. Having read the responses from my students I now know what they consider to be a “HealthyTrev and I will return to this thought later in the semester when we look at the dimensions of wellness (look out for that future blog post).

Here are this week’s #slowchathealth questions. Answer them all at once, or as they are tweeted daily on Twitter.

Q1. (Poll) Do you use blogging/journaling in class? Yes, no, or I plan to do so.

Q2. How do you frame blogging/journaling to maximize student buy-in?

Q3. What tips do you have for checking student journals/blogs?

Q4. What have you learned from using journals/blogs with your students?

Q5. Who reads your student journals/blogs – how big is their audience?

If you have any thoughts or comments on this activity, or even suggestions as to how else it could be used, please leave a comment below or join in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #slowchathealth.

You might like to read Jeffery E. Frieden’s original blog post “2 Small Things Completely Changed How I view My Students”.

You might also like “10 Health and Well-Being Perks of Journaling”.

This weeks questions come from a 2017 #slowchathealth blog post “Journaling in Health’ 

Finally – I can’t say the words “I’ve seen the future” without thinking of this song.

10 thoughts on “I’ve Seen The Future

  1. Erica Valenti

    I read “the Dash” poem by Linda Ellis to my students and ask them to respond. Very similar to what you did but I love the index card with name flair!!!! It personalizes it more and allows for creativity and not just words. I will definitely try his little change and let you know how it goes! Thanks Andy for always being an inspiration.


    1. Thank you Erica for sharing that poem. I hadn’t heard of it and will now DEFINITELY add it to this lesson.

      I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

      He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

      For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

      For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

      So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

      To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

      If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

      So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

      By Linda Ellis, Copyright © Inspire Kindness, 1996, thedashpoem.com.


  2. Lorraine Goldstein

    Q1. (Poll) Do you use blogging/journaling in class? Yes, no, or I plan to do so.

    Yes, we use Blogging (Blogger and Edublog platforms) for our semester projects.

    Q2. How do you frame blogging/journaling to maximize student buy-in?

    We use blogging in combination with our Health Fair Advocacy Project . Students select topics and groups (some choose to work alone) and they create a blog as an interactive way to advocate for their chosen topic throughout semester. We are in our second year and have modified requirements each semester. Basically, they are required 6 posts (minimum) which include : 1. Blogger and Topic introduction, 2. Interactive or online quiz that teaches about topic, 3. Short video from a credible source about topic, 4. A current article related to topic, 5. A support (where you can go for help) post of local and regional/national resources and finally 6. A student created “Ted Talk” or skit video blog promoting the actual Health Fair.

    Q3. What tips do you have for checking student journals/blogs?

    Crete a google sheets of all student blogs URL’s by creating a google form where students answer name, topic, period and blog URL. Convert this to a google sheet for ease of viewing and grading.

    Require other students to visit (AND COMMENT) or classmates blogs during class time so everyone gets some “website traffic” to their blog.

    Q4. What have you learned from using journals/blogs with your students?

    Quiet students have a “voice” as opposed to just the extroverts in the room dominating conversations. Practicing and creating a POSITIVE digital footprint shows students how (most) adults communicate online in the real world.

    Q5. Who reads your student journals/blogs – how big is their audience?

    Teachers and students at our school read the blogs. Some students share their blog with friends and family. Since we have multiple classes and teachers for Health Education, in a given semester we will have about 225-250 blogs.


  3. Sarah Gershon

    Wonderful post and very thought provoking! I am using journaling this year with my classes in conjunction with the young adult novel project. I hope my students buy in and I get to read some great entries.


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