I continued with my activities to prepare my 8th graders to write their “This I Believe” personal statement. The first day was spent identifying and defining values along with ranking those values to what was most important to them.
The second day was what I was not prepared for in doing this assignment with my students. I asked students to freewrite about the following questions:
- When did you first realize your family loves you?
- When did you learn that it is better to tell the truth?
- Who was the first person to make you feel invincible?
- When did you realize you could be anything you want to be?
- When did you learn that life isn’t always fair?
- Who taught you that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to?
- When did you learn that you can’t always get what you want?
- How did you learn about the Tooth Fairy, or other characters?
- Has anyone ever tested your faith?
- Have you ever done something that you regret? What did you learn from that moment?
I read the questions, that I got from the This I Believe curriculum, and when I was finished, the room was silent. Dead silent. Then, a few hands went up. The question that struck me most was, “What if you just realized someone loves you? Can it be recent or does it have to be from when you were a little kid?” With that, I answered by telling them a story about my gram. I always knew that she loved me, but I could remember a specific time when I was a young adult that I truly realized that she loved me. I got teary just telling the story….but what happened next, I was completely unprepared for…
I told the students to answer the questions as best they could on a separate piece of paper, and that they could skip around. Some students sat at the table, some sat on the floor, and others asked to go in the hallway. Once they started writing, I heard sniffling, people getting up for tissues, and some outright sobbing. I was amazed at the power that a question could stir up such emotion. These kids were writing like I’ve never seen…totally focused and engaged. I was overwhelmed by emotion myself as I saw my students “go there” emotionally…and that they were doing it through writing. It dawned on me that they felt safe and secure enough in my class to be that emotionally open. This is what I was completely unprepared for. I never imagined that a little writing exercise could be so powerful to them, and to me, but…I will remember to never underestimate the power of words and the emotional connection that we have to them.