Influencers of Self Lesson

At the end of lesson one, or in some cases prior to lesson one, we ask students to collect five things that are important to them. We give them the criteria as follows:

Choose five things from your life that hold value to you they can be:

  • stories
  • photos
  • items
  • people
  • places
  • a specific time
  • scents
  • a book
  • a movie
  • or anything else that holds significance for you for whatever reason.

We have done this lesson with up to ten items, and honestly ten items lets the student see a diversity of self five cannot achieve, however, five items gets well below the surface.

The intent of this lesson is to have the students see for themselves what influences who they are, what they hold as being important, what they want more of in their lives, what they want less of. It is a mining for influences, and it has proved to be powerful beyond measure. Below is the lesson and some of the tweaks that have been employed in different classrooms and schools. However, first I have included a small sampling of the Core Competencies used in this lesson.

1.) Relationships and cultural contexts
Students understand that their relationships and cultural contexts help to shape who they are. (“Culture” is meant in its broadest sense, including identifers such as ethnicity, nationality, language, ability, sex/gender, age, geographic region, sexuality, and religion.) Students de ne themselves in terms of their relationship to others and their relationship to the world (people and place) around them.

2.) Personal values and choices
Students de ne what they value. They understand how what they value has been in uenced by their life experiences. They identify ways in which what they value helps to shape their choices in all contexts of their lives.

3.) Self-determination
Students who are personally aware and responsible have a sense of personal ef cacy and growing con dence in a variety of situations. They value themselves, their ideas, and their accomplishments. They are able to express their needs and seek help when they need it, to nd purpose and motivation and act on it, and to advocate for themselves.

4.) Well-being
Students who are personally aware and responsible recognize how their decisions and actions affect their mental, physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and spiritual wellness, and take increasing responsibility for caring for themselves. They keep themselves healthy and physically active, manage stress, and express a sense of personal well-being. They make choices that contribute to their safety in their communities, including online interactions. They recognize the importance of happiness, and have strategies that help them nd peace in challenging situations.

5.) Valuing diversity
Students value diversity, defend human rights, advocate for others, and act with a sense of ethics in interactions, including online.

6.) Building relationships
Students develop and maintain diverse, positive peer and intergenerational relationships in a variety of contexts.

* We have done this lesson without teaching Witnnessing and Sawa Bona, it does not go well. The students need the tools to become compassionate,  active listeners. They need to understand and embrace that their role as a partner is what allows others engage in self discovery in this lesson.

Step 1: The students are given a circle with five (or ten if this is the way we went), pie slices. They fill them out with the five pieces they have brought that hold meaning to them. This is a “Me” activity that allows the student time to reflect about themselves. Who am I? What has made me this person? What am I proud of? What am I afraid to share? What am I excited to share? It is an excellent example of starting with “Me”.FEFAC1AC-50F5-42FE-8F81-4760AF7E9D04

Step 2: We RANDOMLY asign the students a partner through sticks or numbering or whatever else makes it clear that this is completely random. We have already reminded them of Witnessing and Sawa Bona, we have also talked about kind facial expressions and body language. How our faces and posture tell people a lot of what we think about them. (We usually have demonstrated in a seriously ridiculous way with eye rolls, huffs and the like, showing how painful and crushing saying nothing can be). We do the random partnering because we find this activity has such an incredible impact on building community, and we want to spread that positive community outwards. We make it clear that what is talked about in these partnerships stays in these partnerships. They are entering into an agreement where they are allowing themselves to be open and vulnerable, therefore we are explicit that these conversations belong to no one but the people in the partnerships. (We haven’t had a breach yet.)

*In the whole school project, we are engaged in, this random partnering occurred in their home rooms with 8-12 students from a variety of social groups and we found excellent success. We found it’s all in the preparation of lesson one, and the work on body and facial expressions.)

Step 3.) Either in partnerships of two, or three depending on your views of witnessing (sometimes a third person can collect what they hear on paper then collect the conversation that takes place after. This paper would be given to the person who shared as a gift at the end of their sharing.)  while one person simply listens we have the students decide who will speak first. We do not give them any criteria on this other than to say, “have a conversation an decide who is most prepared to start, be considerate of each other’s needs and comfort levels and make the best choice for your team”. It is the beginning of their work as Family, negotiating and listening. We then coach them that they will tell the story of each item. They can consider what each item means to them, and why they chose it, or any other aspects that they want. The only thing we ask that they include is how it has influenced them. We give each partner approximately 20 minutes to tell the stories of five items, so around four minutes a piece. However, we do not stop people mid story.

Step 4.) The first partner begins with whatever item they want. They tell the story of the item, what it means to them, how it has influenced them, etc. Their partner listens intently to their stories. Collecting the stories they tell, their tone of voice, their feelings. They watch and listen with their whole person to their partner.

Step 5.) When their partner is done the listener goes through the items and talks about what they heard.

“I heard you say this picture of your father reminds you have how young he was when you were born. I believe you were saying you understood how hard it must have been to become a father and mother this young. So I think your saying you don’t want to go though that, but you appreciate they did?” *(This was an actual conversation that took place in one partnership)

While the partner who listened is going over what they think they heard, the storyteller can take notes if they choose. Many times we make new connections to ourselves by hearing others reflect for us. They may write just what the person said, or they may write something it triggers. They can talk to the listener and clarify, they can ask politely for them to pause while they write something down, they are in complete control of how they collect their stories. If you had a group of three the person recording the stories will gift their written words to the storyteller. Sometimes the third person is an E.A. If the partnership is with a person who struggles with writing. This is great! We encourage everyone to participate. I often start us off by telling a whole group one of my stories while the whole class witnesses and reflects it to me.

Step 6.) When the partners are done they switch roles. In a group of three with an E.A., just set it up so that the child with written output challenges is the second witness for the E.A.

Step 7.) When the students are done this portion we just let them talk for about five minutes in their partnerships. They talk about the stories, things that surprised them etc. We frame it as “talk about what surprised you.” However, it seldom stay’s there for long. The purpose is just to decompress after so much intense sharing.

Given the variety of time frames in schools, this portion of the lesson may  take up all the time you had in this class, We have designed each lesson to work in an 80 minute block.  Therefore I will make the next lesson be the reflection. However, if you have the ability to juggle time, I highly suggest you move into the reflection right away.