This summer I had the good fortune to be able to work with teenagers in the Upward Bound program. They were taking part in a six week stay at a local college campus, going to classes and experiencing what it’s like to be a real college student.
I was their computer teacher (in spite of the fact that my degree is actually in English, and I don’t really consider myself to be particularly tech savvy). For their first assignment, I asked the students to create a newsletter using inspirational quotes and stories from your website www.motivateus.com. If you remember, I had called to ask if you would mind if I did so, and you gave your permission. You also asked me to let you know how things went, so I am writing this letter to tell you a little about the class.
My themes for the course were inspiration, motivation, and activism, and I tried to create assignments that catered to those themes. For their Excel assignment, for example, I used facts and figures on world poverty from the World Bank and information about blood donation and disaster relief from the Red Cross. For another assignment, they were required to research information on a cause that interested them and write to their legislators about that topic. They wrote about obesity, teen drinking, medical marijuana, health care, and a variety of other things, and in the end, I did indeed send those letters to their legislators. In addition to these and other assignments, I read to them each day from the book Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris.
It is pretty obvious, as you can see, that I had an agenda. I didn’t just want to teach them how to use computer applications. I wanted to inspire them to make a change in the world and in themselves for the better. And I was pretty blatant about communicating this goal. The question is whether or not I had an impact on any of them.
Basically what I saw is that the students performed at a consistent level from the time they entered the class to the time they left. Those who worked hard did so from the time they entered to the time they left, and those that slacked and played on Facebook (yes, even in a program like Upward Bound, there are slackers) did so consistently throughout the six week period. So did I make an impact? Hmmm. Hard to say.
I will say that I made them think. And yes, I do use the word “made” consciously. I asked them questions about their beliefs, asked them how they were enacting those beliefs, asked them what “hard things” they faced, and asked them questions inspired by the Harris’ book.
Although it is difficult for a teacher to measure the impact she has on a student--especially when she sees those students for a very brief period during their young lives--I think it is important that we keep trying. At the very least, they know that there are people in this world who really do value passion, inspiration, and motivation, and I appreciate the fact that you have put your web site out there for everyone to see. Those of us who care should not remain silent. We need to communicate that message, whether through the internet or face to face.
So I would like to thank you sincerely for allowing us to use the material from your website for our classroom project. It started the class out on the right foot, and I hope that it helped inspire my students to, in a slight modification from the army’s motto, “be all they can be.”