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Sunday, April 17, 2011

If you want to be happy, be

The other day in the mail I received a letter, it was from my 8th grade self. I have been waiting for this letter for the past four years, and finally getting it was surreal. Upon eighth grade graduation my English teacher prompted my classmates and me to write letters to our high school senior selves. She gave us envelopes, promising to mail them to us in four years.

My letter…

I wrote about everything that seemed important to me then; my relationships with my family and friends, the high hopes of playing division 1 basketball at Duke or UConn, and my hope to be popular in high school. My eighth grade self hoped that I would have boyfriends in high school, make friends, and excel at school. Although most of the thoughts on my mind as an eight grader were poorly articulated, the goal I wanted to accomplish in high school was to be successful. Successful in academics, relationships, and be successful at being happy.

Would my eighth grades self approve…

YES!!! I have a great relationship with my family and friends, I am playing basketball in college, I had a few boyfriends along the way (I don’t think my eighth grade self would ever believe that!), and I am excelling in school.J

On a deeper level though, I broke out of the shell that I had built up throughout middle school. I gained confidence in myself and I feel like I experienced a lot of different things in high school.

Most of my ideas in the letter were not developed. I just briefly touched on things that were not great in my life and things that I wanted to maintain. This letter that our teacher made us write was informal, it was for only our eyes, and it could have been about anything. For whatever reason though, I set small goals for myself and subconsciously and consciously, worked to maintain those goals. There are statistics proving that you are more likely to accomplish something if you make it a goal, and then you are even more likely to accomplish it if you write it down.

I wonder what would happen if teachers used this method to help their students. What if at the beginning of the school year each teacher asked their students to write a letter to themselves that they will open after they complete that grade (or any period of time). The teacher could promote writing about work ethic, schoolwork, friendships, social skills, but promise that no one would read it. The privacy that I had when I wrote my letter allowed me to express and address some of my deepest thoughts. Also, our teacher told us a day before to think about what we would say to ourselves four years later. When it was time to write, she gave us a whole class period and encouraged us to write a lot.

In the hustle and bustle of teaching all the required curriculum, assigning last minute projects, etc. Maybe the best thing a teacher can assign his or her student is a reflection piece. Give the student time to think critically about their life and prompt them to write about it. I will cherish this letter forever, and I know a lot of other students would love the opportunity to participate in something this meaningful.

Until next time,


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