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.”
If 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.
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.
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”.
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.