Sunday, August 4, 2013

Build a collection of photos and videos that tell your life story. GOAL: The Tenth-Grade Autobiography and "Tracing My Roots" Project that every student at the Met Center completes

The Big Picture school in Providence, R.I. uses the following idea to build confidence in students.

(a) Write about something you know.
(b) Become an expert about that subject
(c) Write the way you talk.
(d) Take an inventory of your talents and potential support.  Find out what tools are inside you and what potentials are waiting to be developed.
The topic:  your family and where you came from.

Tracing My Roots" is one possible title.  It is called the Gateway Project because the students are ready to enter the "community of young adults."   We become part of the community as an agent of good and of positive force when we know what "good actions" our parents have taken.  When we know about the good actions that our mentors have taken in the past, we can prepare our minds for taking action and becoming "agents of good."

EXAMPLE:  I remember that my grandfather told me stories.  Perhaps I can develop that ability to tell stories.  "If my grandfather did it, maybe I have that ability in me" is the powerful thought that pushes me to improve my storytelling.

KEY POINT:  I ask students to do this exercise ONLY because I have taken time to attempt the same exercise.  If it is valuable for students to do, the best way for me to demonstrate that value is to invest time in the procedure myself.  (I'm going to do 20 sit-ups right now ...        .... okay, I'm back.)

I'll start by showing you some photos and telling you some stories about my parents, grandparents, uncle, and ancestors.  Then you can start interviewing your parents, their friends, your grandparents, their friends....

Part 1
What did you want to do when you were a teenager?
What were your first jobs?
What do you remember doing well when you were young?
What did you enjoy reading?
What did you enjoy talking about?
What inspired you when you were younger?
What attracted your attention?
What major obstacles did you meet when you were younger?
What did you have to overcome?

These questions help you find out "the emotional and intellectual DNA" of your family.  What did you inherit from your family?  What is the culture in your family tree and in your roots?

I ask each of my students to start asking the members of their extended family many questions about their abilities.

Then you can also add these questions

Part 2
What do you remember about me when I was younger?
What did I say that you remember as unusual?
What did I do that showed part of my unique personality?
What talent did you see in me?
What do you see in me now?

Part 1 is to find the talents of your family (and perhaps you have some of those talents in you).
You certainly have experts in experience in your family tree and you can call on those people to help you when you need guidance and tips.

Part 2 is to find out what people see in you.  These questions can guide you in learning about yourself.


Here are some of the answers that I received from my father
"I was a traveling salesman in Texas.  I went from town to town trying to get people interested in a new type of airplane."
KEY POINT:  My dad supported innovation.  He liked meeting people and sharing his enthusiasm about a product and an idea that he believed in.

Grandfather Brooks
He met a classmate at Princeton University who was from Japan.  Instead of making fun of his eyes and appearance and accent, my grandfather became friends and eventually visited the Japanese guy 17 years later.  (Hmmm, let's do the math:  My grandfather was at university from 1920-24 ... when did he visit his classmate?   Hmmm... what great events were happening in the world at that time....?)
KEY POINT: I can call on my grandfather's ability to overcome stereotypes.  He pressed himself into the other person's point of view and looked at the USA through the eyes of his classmate.  I can learn from that ability to see the world through another person's eyes.

Grandfather Arthur
My grandfather retired early and used to spend time visiting a local school.  He
KEY POINT:  I have patience in my family tree.   I can learn how to be a mentor by thinking about my grandfather.  What does a mentor do?  He listens, he waits for the mentee to ask a question, he shows a procedure and then he lets the mentee try it.   My grandfather was adept at using hands-on learning to guide his students.

Uncle Steve (my father's brother)
My uncle studied sailing at a school in Florida when he was in his teens.  He left a boarding school in New Jersey and went to the school in Florida.  Perhaps he was a bit "adventurous" and he might have interpreted some school rules differently than the principal.  That might have been a reason why my uncle went to Florida....
KEY POINT:  I have "rambunctious" in my family tree.   Flexibility is also in my genes.

My mother
After a year in a college in Vermont, my mom moved to Winter Park, Florida and enjoyed three years in that school.  She says that she thrived in the sunshine and clean air of Central Florida.
KEY POINT:  My mother thrives in sunny climates.  I do, too.  I have "seasonal affective disorder" or SAD, which I like to call  "Sunny Attitude in Sunny Places" (SAISP).

My grandmother
My mother told me that her mother liked to read Kahlil Gibran.  "Awake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving."
KEY POINT:  I can reach into my DNA and call on gratitude.  I have "grateful" in my blood.

I can look at older photos...  What was I thinking in that moment?

I'm holding a certificate for my student Claudia in 2001.
Two of my colleagues, Krista and Paul, are behind us.
I was a teacher at a language academy.  I was happy to see
Claudia grow in her confidence as a speaker of English.

Now it's your turn.  You can sit with a pad of paper or record the answers from your relatives.   Ask the questions Part 1 and Part 2.  Share the positive moments and think, "What can I learn from this person?"

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