Over winter break when I was floating down the Colorado in the grand canyon, I would sit back on the inflatable raft and try to think about how I could make the second semester more engaging and more beneficial to the kids than the first. It’s not to say that the first semester of public school teaching was complete hell, but there was enough resistance and disengagement to tell me I needed to do something different. I had to get their heads in the game.
I don’t know where the idea came from, except that I was reading Don Miller’s new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years at the time and decided I could possibly read parts of the book to them. So I decided to. It was great journaling material. We talked about memories of your childhood, strengths and weaknesses, being afraid of heights and foods and certain animals, taking risks, playing sports, doing stupid things to impress your friends, dealing with relationships, saying sorry, talking to your parents, how to pretend (with the MGMT song), and lots of other “Life” things. I knew this would be a great source of authentic writing for them, but I wanted to take it one step further.
I came up with the Life Project. The concept is: write/draw/paint/rap/video three parts of your life:
- Your past (who you were)
- Your present (who you are)
- Your future (who you’ll be and how you’ll get there)
We left it pretty open ended and told the kids they could do whatever they want. Now I know that alot of this is idealistic thinking that falls in line with inspiring kids to do great things without giving them the resources to do them, and maybe that’s true. This could be a let down for many of them. But, here are some of the great things they said and came up with about the Life Project.
“My life project has helped me realize who I am, and what I plan on doing with my life. I would like to graduate from high school and go to college. I want to play on great softball team and maybe play volleyball. Before this project I didn’t think about it and never planned it out. Now I know what the important things in my life are and I am going to keep moving forward.” – 10th grade female
“The Life Project has help me understand myself in many way. Ways as in placing my life in order. I know what I’m going to do next. I wasn’t planning on going to college. At the beginning of the year I was thinking to myself, who wants to go to school after finishing high school? I thought school wasn’t worth it. But as I begin the life project in class it had me think to myself what I’m going to do next with my life. Thanks to starting and finishing the life project I have my life all figured out. I just need achieve my goals.” – 10th grade male
One girl’s comic strip predicting her life includes:
1. Studying at CHS in the 10th grade 2. Falling in love and having her boyfriend walk her home in 11th grade 3. Graduating high school in 2012 4. Working at McDonalds 5. Fighting a girl because she was talking about me 6. Getting locked up
“I do understand myself better than I will ever have known. If I haven’t did this life project I would have been a whole different person than who I will become. Who was I? Good question. I was bad, not that bad like cops and robbers type bad. Like disrespectful. I didn’t care I just wanted to be cool. I never wanted to do work in school. When I got home all I did was text, talk on the phone, or go outside with friends. When did I do my homework, never ever. I never like doing it it sucked and took up all my time. Who am I now? A person who cares about her life. I want to do good in school get good grades so thats why I decided to focus on the last quarter. It’s either now or never to change. It’s like I woke up and something told me to do good or you’re not going to college. I think it was my mom telling me in my head.” – 10th grade female
“I understand myself better now this year because at the beginning of the year I was out of control and didn’t know what to do. At the beginning I was a person who didn’t care, but now Im focusing on making grades. “I don’t care” is what I used to say. That’s the easy way out. People were pretty upset about my grades, including me. Now I’m a person who work hard and does grades even though its hard. People love to see you fail, but hate when you make it, because that’s something they didn’t do or can’t do. My parents always say “you are going to cross that stage no matter what.” I want to be an artist so ima try and go to art school. Drawing is like working on a car. It’s all hard work and you got to keep trying until you get it. I want to graduate and do stuff my family never did.” – 10th grade male
“In the beginning of the year I didn’t understand myself like I do now. I think back and wonder if the life project was a good thing to do. Yes it way. Starting school this year there was drama in my head. I didn’t even want to go to class. I wanted to be around the drama and start it and be a part of it. Over the year Ive been in a lot of drama. This morning even. Now that I think about it it just comes to be a waste of time. I sit here with madness and anger in me, just wants to be released, but I just write about it on a test. Instead of going to the person its best for me to write. Now I’m in a state of mind to stay calm. In the future, I wouldn’t mind hearing about the drama in this school instead of being included in it. My goals are already set on what I want to be. I plan on being an RN. This is my life project, and it helped me understand myself.”