Instead of going over rules and course guidelines, I decided to start the first day of school a little differently...
One of my first assignments for my ninth and tenth grade students is to write a personal goal essay. Last year, one of my freshmen wrote a paragraph dedicating a personal goal to all of the things he wanted to be remembered for after he graduates. It stuck with me and I knew I had to incorporate that somehow in the following years. It is easy for the kids to write academic and athletic goals, but it is so much more meaningful if they think about character goals as well.
So, this weekend, I sent an email to the elementary teachers in our district. I asked them to look at the list of students I have, and when they recognized a name, write down what they remember about that student. I told them I did not want to know what student they were referring to, I just wanted a list of comments/words that came to their mind when they thought about those particular students. Because I work in an incredible district, my email was flooded with responses within a few short hours (on a holiday weekend).
When class started today, I explained to the students that the way they carry themselves, the way they treat others, and the things they stand for are impacting those around them in more ways than they realize. It is natural that people form an opinion about them and cling to specific things to remember about them later in life. To prove this point, I told them about emailing their previous teachers (some that they had ten years ago), and then I shared this document with them…
Because of the powerful list of comments from the teachers, the students now had words/phrases/impressions they wanted to fit. The documents the students shared with me at the end of the lesson were inspiring. We will continue to revisit these lists and now the students have a starting point when they write their personal goal essay later this week.
However, this isn't just a lesson for students. We all need to think about how we want to be remembered. I really did some serious thinking about the type of teacher I want to be remembered as and they type of parent I want my own kids to remember. This experience is challenging, yet very necessary.