In the fall of 2013 Linda D. and her eleven-year-old daughter Kate flew from Denver to Austin to see Katie. As the event was ending, Katie motioned to Kate, who then ran onto the stage and they walked off stage together. Linda soon found them sitting on a couch backstage, Katie’s arm around Kate as Kate told her all about school, friends, and interests. Kate said, “Kids need to know The Work, otherwise we’ll spend years believing things that aren’t true and suffering when we don’t have to!”
Linda came back to Denver invigorated, looking for ways to bring The Work to kids.
I’ve been working to find effective, creative ways to integrate The Work in my classroom for years now. As my teaching practice grows stronger, this integration is starting to materialize. (More on classroom integration later.) It just so happens that I teach not only in the Denver area, but in the same district where Linda’s kids attend school. Wow! On a weekend soon after she got back from Austin, we met for breakfast to talk about ways to bring The Work to kids… and Summer Camp for The Work was born.
We spent the next five months working crazy hard to design the Camp and get it ready.
We decided that the pilot would be free (kids “paid” with their feedback on each activity), and since it was free and served the community (nine of the kids who came were my former students) we were able to use my classroom and my school’s technology. Katie generously donated T-shirts and cloth bags for the kids. We put together camp binders and bags, got the classroom ready, set up registration, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 28th-August 1st, 2014 we held Camp.
Twelve kids came total (ten high-schoolers, one entering middle school, and one going into fourth grade). The week flew by as we played games and did The Work.
We began each day with name games and trust exercises, which they loved.
Throughout the Camp, insights flowed out of kids. During a partner facilitation, one girl questioned the thought “My sister shouldn’t call me chubby.” As she got to the opposite turnaround she laughed: “My sister should call me chubby. Maybe she was helping me watch my weight!” As part of the camp, kids wrote down their insights and new possibilities onto yellow sticky notes shaped like stars, and then taped them to a Wall of Possibilities. As Linda and I looked over the stars that particular evening, we saw “Maybe my sister helps me watch my weight.”
During another facilitation, a boy questioned the thought “My mother should buy me clothes” and with a generous heart realized “I should buy my mother clothes (or something she needs)” and also “I can buy myself clothes.” The independence and strength of spirit his turnaround left him with was felt by us all.
On Day 3 we made blue antennas out of painted headbands, blue pipe cleaners, and blue fuzzy balls. What if we heard negative or painful things people might say to us (or that we might say to ourselves) as if someone told us we were wearing blue antennas on our heads and we know 100% we’re not? (Thank you, Roxann, for this idea!) With the blue antennas exercise and discussion, kids were able to see that when someone says something negative, it doesn’t hurt until or unless we believe it. Kids LOVED this activity, and blue antennas kept popping up the rest of Camp.
Kids took their time filling out Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets, and they repeatedly rated doing The Work high on their feedback forms.
They also got the chance to Skype with Katie, which they loved.
We’ve talked with some of them since the Camp, and they’re using The Work. One girl went to a funeral of a close family friend who had died. She said using The Work helped her feel less sadness and more love. She also said that when she got in an argument with her parents, she was able to see their perspective.
Here is feedback from their feedback forms:
“The top three things I learned are to change the way I respond, a better connection to myself, and to think things through in a different way.” – Elisa
“The top three things I learned are that you can be understanding with people, using The Work can help my family, and happiness is love.” – Sarah
“The top three things that meant something to me and that I learned were the trust building, learning that people might be going through the same problems as you, and that when someone tells you something [hurtful] it doesn’t hurt – when you believe it, it hurts.” – Isamar
“I learned how not to let my negative thoughts hurt me, how to view life from a different perspective, and how to question my negative thoughts.” – Ethan
Elisa also said she’d recommend the Camp to others because “it’s really helping me with some difficult decisions and is opening up my eyes to a more peaceful and less confusing world! I really enjoyed it and would like to come back and actually go more into depth with The Work.”
Linda and I are privileged to get to do this work. We are planning a weekend workshop this fall. Also, I’m designing much of the Camp into my first unit of the year (on identity), with all my incoming classes. We’ll end the unit with a video project, where students will take a thought through The Work and make a video. In fact, it looks like the entire ninth grade (over 400 students) will be making videos. (Exciting!!) We made The Work videos last year in my classes for the first time, and some of the students’ videos were incredible! Check out this girl’s video questioning the thought “I’ll never adjust to this change”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq7QLpitI7c
I’m working to integrate The Work into both curriculum and classroom management structures in authentic, creative ways that honestly reach teenagers and connect with best practices in education. If you’re a parent or teacher and would like more information or to connect, please email me at [email protected] or [email protected] or Linda at [email protected]. Linda and I would love to hear from you and share ideas. We are also researching the effectiveness of the Camp and The Work integrated into the classroom through scales (one we developed and some that are independently validated) and assessments, so if you have interest in research we’d love to connect.