There was a teacher I worked with who always wrote a final message to his students every year. The message would review some of the big units and concepts they learned throughout the year and how he hoped they would be able to carry some valuable life-lessons away from his class.
I loved the idea, so last year I started doing the same thing. Here is the letter I wrote to my students this year:
The end of the school year is approaching, and sometimes I find it difficult to keep my students (and myself) still engaged and diligently working until the end. This year has been a roller coaster of emotions, but despite it all I am grateful for the opportunity to teach a new grade and add some new creative ideas to my teaching experience.
What follows are some meaningful activities and discussions I have had with my students in the last few weeks of school to keep us interested in the classroom. I have found a lot of success in these final unit plans.
I decided to end the year reading and writing memoirs. Memoirs are great because they are based on the author's own memories and experiences. Students find if fun to write about their childhood memories or moments that stand out in their lives.
With my regular Language Arts class, I had them participate in an interview project, inspired by Story Corps. This played into the memoir unit because it asked them to ask some deep and sometimes difficult questions to an adult; then, the hope was that they would be able to ask themselves similarly deep questions in order to think of a meaningful memoir to write about their own lives.
I really, really liked this assignment because it helped students branch out of their comfort zone and have meaningful conversations with their parents, grandparents, leaders, or other adults in their lives. Some students hated it (haha) because they said they felt awkward asking personal questions to their parents, but I think it was actually good for these kids because it helped them see their parents as real people with hope, dreams, failures, and successes.
Another unit I incorporated into my curriculum this year was on finding a job. My students learned how to fill out a job application, write a neat and clear resume, and effectively communicated in a job interview.
As part of the unit, my honors class did a little extra research and discussed the question: "When choosing a career, should you follow your passion or choose a more practical occupation?" Ooo, this was definitely a fun and heated debate.
I first had students write for 3 minutes on their initial opinion. After that, we took a vote. In almost all of my classes, the unanimous opinion was that people should follow their passion. Well, to start the ball rolling, I showed them a video by Mike Rowe where he clearly argues the point that practicality should be the guiding principle in choosing a career (see the assignment button above for access to all the videos). We took notes and discussed some of his main points. The next day, students were able to do even more research on both sides of the argument. As they watched videos, listened to podcasts, and read articles, they talked with other students at their tables on what they were learning and what they did or did not agree with. It was awesome to hear students consider their own experience as well as the experiences from their parents and grandparents as they tried to make sense of what they learned in the research.
The final day we had a debate. I assigned certain students to defend the "Passion" side and others to defend the "Practical" side. They used their notes and the discussions from the previous days to argue their point. At the end of it all, we did a final quickwrite where students wrote about their opinion now after the research and discussion. Most students now felt that there needed to be a healthy balance of practical and passion in a job. It was interesting to see how their opinions had developed through the mini unit.
Finally, I merged what we had discussed with personal memoir with the pointers on how to persuade a possible employer in a job resume/interview to have the students write college admissions essays. I think my students were pretty shocked to find out that a college admissions essay was very different than the "essays" they are accustomed to seeing and writing.
We first discussed what kind of purpose and audience this type of essay would need to fit, and that helped us also figure out an appropriate tone for the stories we chose. (Basically, I wanted to make sure that students were not just choosing a story for the purpose of making their 9th grade peers laugh; that would not fulfill the purpose or audience that is truly meant to be targeted in a college admissions essay). We looked up commonly used questions for the essay prompt, and then students were able to start brainstorming and drafting their essay.
Students enjoyed this final assignment. It was a way for them to write memoir-type stories in a meaningful and structured way. I loved reading these and seeing a small part of their lives that shape their personalities. I read stories about dance recitals and football teams, the sadness of divorce and the joys of family vacations, role models and important life-lesson moments. It was really insightful and helped me love my students even more.
So next week is our official last week of school and (let's be honest) it will be filled with memory book writing, trips to Lagoon, and cleaning up the classroom. I am grateful for this year to have taught 9th grade. I have learned a lot and have grown closer to my students as we have struggled together.
To end it all, I think this school year can be summed up in this adorable cup I received from a student: "Eat, Sleep, Teach, Repeat". Haha. Sometimes it felt like I was just going through the motions, but I hope my students were able to pull valuable lessons from our discussions.
I love my siblings. It's difficult because I haven't lived close to them in years, but I love the time I get to spend whenever it comes.
Yesterday, Andrew and I went hiking with my little brother, Jacob, and his wife, Danika.
by Andrew :)
I was asked to give a talk in church about the influence of women and mothers. As I thought and prayed about this topic, I felt like I should talk about the influence that my own mother has had on my life in the area of showing faith throughout trials. I want to share the thoughts that I have about this with my beautiful Mother today.
I was born into a wonderful family who had the gospel in their lives and parents who love me, and I’m very grateful for those blessing. At the ripe old age of 6 years old, my parents called myself and my 6 brothers and sister together to announce that they were getting a divorce. At that point in time, I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what divorce was, and I certainly didn’t understand the change it would have in our lives. As we transitioned into this change, we saw our mother less and less. She was a very busy woman trying to take care of 7 kids and work to put food on the table for us. It was difficult for us as kids, and I can’t even begin to fathom what pressure and stress that put on my mother’s shoulders. As time went on, she continued to work long hours and the rest of her time was pretty much spent sleeping, doing church responsibilities, or helping us kids with our needs. She didn’t have the support she should have from my dad to ease her burdens and despite that, we were very blessed as a family.
As I’ve looked back, I’ve learned many important lessons from my mom. A few of those key lessons include:
The value of hard work
The first lesson I’ve learned from her is the value of hard work. When I was young, I knew my mother was working a lot, but I didn’t understand the sacrifices that she was making for our family. My dad wasn’t helping her support us, so at times she was working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. She was also working hard in her time outside of work to be a mother to her children. She was willing to sacrifice her interests and hobbies to put her family first. Whatever she had to do, she did it for us. My mother emulated that work ethics that the Nephites had when they came to the American continent (see 2 Nephi 5:15-17, 27). Much like the hard work of the Nephites, with my mother, happiness prevailed. I have come to learn that happiness is one of the results of hard work.
Going to church on Sunday
Another lesson I learned is the importance of going to church every Sunday. Monday through Saturday at the Macey home was hectic and mom wasn’t around as much as we would’ve liked her to be. Sunday was the day I looked forward to because I knew that I’d be able to be with my mom. My mother was an excellent example of being at home for church on Sunday and also having a family dinner. She once told me that church was something that she couldn’t sacrifice, she needed it too badly.
Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of the Seventy in his October 2013 conference talk, shared a story about the importance of regular church attendance. He said,
“My father could remember the very day, even the very hour, that his family—father, mother, and four children—left the Church, many never to return again in this life. He was 13 years old, a deacon, and in those days families attended Sunday School in the morning and then sacrament meeting in the afternoon. On a beautiful spring day, after returning home from Sunday morning worship services and having a midday family meal together, his mother turned to his father and asked simply, “Well, dear, do you think we should go to sacrament meeting this afternoon, or should we take the family for a ride in the country?”
The idea that there was an option to sacrament meeting had never occurred to my father, but he and his three teenage siblings all sat up and paid careful attention. That Sunday afternoon ride in the country was probably an enjoyable family activity, but that small decision became the start of a new direction which ultimately led his family away from the Church with its safety, security, and blessings and onto a different path.”
I know that there were times that doing something else sounded better and church wasn't what she wanted to do with her free time. I'm sure dragging 7 kids over to the church with you isn't an easy task as a single mother. I will be forever grateful for her decision to make church a priority during her trying times and teaching me the importance of observing Sunday as a day for church.
Paying a Full Tithe
The final lesson that I’d like to share that I learned from my mother are the blessings that come through paying a full tithe. We are taught in Malachi 3: 10 that if we pay a full tithe, the Lord has promised us great blessing. He said, “Prove me not herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” I’ve have multiple conversations with my mother about tithing and how she was able to be faithful during her toughest trials. She told me that she had the mentality that she couldn’t afford not to pay her tithing. She has shared with me some special moments that happened when she paid her tithing and some of the blessings our family have seen through it.
Andrew and Maichael
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