Is ANYTHING really possible?
Recently, I had the pleasure of helping my son’s Grade 8 class develop one-page profiles that includes a vision box that focuses on their upcoming transition to high school. We worked through multiple activities, including an appreciation activity to help them think about what was important to them and to help teachers know how to best support them. They enjoyed building the profiles very much and were able to identify a lot of detailed information. It seemed like another successful day of developing profiles… until we got to the activity focusing on their vision for high school.
I had decided to use an activity called “Don’t Bust my Balloon”. Essentially, what I asked them to do was answer a series of questions about what they see themselves doing in the next five years. They answered the questions on a piece of paper and had the opportunity to summarize it on their profiles and share with the class before we wrapped up the activity. I then handed each of them a balloon. The final instruction I gave them was to “fold the piece of paper with all of the answered questions as small as possible” and to “put it inside the balloon.” Happily chatting and laughing, they folded their papers. When it was time to put the paper in the balloon, we ran into some difficulty. One student asked: “How do you expect us to get this paper into a balloon?” My answer was “I don’t know, this is the first time I have done this.” I was mortified and thought about how silly it was of me to not have practiced this before I asked them to do it. I had worked with these students for hours, telling them how important it is to celebrate their uniqueness and how they can do anything they want to do in life and I asked them to do something that was impossible. It hit me when the next student said: “It’s impossible to get it in the balloon, the neck is too small”. I simply told them: “If one approach doesn’t work, try another, and another, and another until you figure it out, it must be possible.” Sure enough, after many minutes of trying, one student found a way that worked for her. She showed the rest of the class and some used her approach, while others proudly announced new ways of their own.
After taking a deep breath and saying a thankful prayer that my activity didn’t blow up in my face, I did some reflecting on the experience. I realized that I learn just as much in these workshops as the students do. There is never an end to learning, which means that there is never an end to the need to review and update our profiles. As we learn, we grow, and who we are changes; sometimes minimally, sometimes tremendously. It is important that we share these changes with those around us, especially the people who are helping us to grow; our teachers. I was reminded that you need to believe in what you teach.
The students went ahead and proudly held their balloons above their heads and proclaimed: “Don’t Bust my Balloon!” The balloon became a symbol of their future and they felt a sense of control over it. Building the profiles and sharing their dreams or vision was empowering and helped them feel confident with taking this step into high school. They learned, and so did I, that anything is possible if you work at it.