Who am I? A seemingly simple question, but one that causes us to dig deep into reflecting about what factors make up our identity. The start of a new year always brings about self-reflection as people set goals and make resolutions. In order to aspire to eat healthier, read more or procrastinate less, we need to take an inward look at ourselves. As we work to improve ourselves and gain a deeper awareness of who we are, hopefully this also creates greater acceptance and tolerance of others. We can achieve a more uKnighted community.
When the fourth graders returned from Christmas break, they participated in an identity activity and were asked to answer the question "Who am I?" In filling out an identity chart about themselves, students realized that some factors were things that could be seen, such as height, hair color, and eye color. We also discovered that many of our identity traits are unseen, such as being a daughter, a morning person, an athlete, and friendly. We learned that amongst us were people who like cheerleading, are shy around new people, like sour candy, and enjoy classical music. Some of the traits were similar to our own identity and some were not. A few traits surprised us, such as learning that someone is an uncle because they have much older siblings. Just as we've heard the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" we learned that there are many layers to each person and we cannot judge a person's character from their appearances.
I was impressed with the students' honesty about their identity. Students shared that they were picky eaters, stubborn with their parents, and fought with their siblings. One student asked, "If I'm only hurtful to my sister, does that still make me hurtful?" We discussed how we are all imperfect and a life-long goal could be working on these traits. Some bigger ideas surfaced when another student said that she's been labeled as having a big head. How do we respond when people make judgments about our identity? By understanding ourselves better and learning more about each other, we can become open and empathetic to people who are similar and different from us. This greater awareness of one another can build a better community.
To further our exploration, students looked at twenty statements which were part of an identity tapestry. Some of these statements were: "I was born in Louisiana"; "I have been to another country"; "I have felt excluded from a group before"; and "I am here to learn and be my best self". These statements were spread out on a bulletin board. Students used embroidery floss to wrap around statements they felt aligned with their identity. In observing the final tapestry, the fourth graders noticed that we have many things in common: we are creative, we are responsible for our own actions, and we love science. We are connected in many ways but we also noticed that not many of us are left handed and few people prefer hot weather to cold weather. The final product is a beautiful tapestry showing the many ways we are alike and different, yet how we are a connected fourth grade community.
For our final activity, the students wrote a thoughtful letter to their future selves. In the letter they needed to choose aspects of their identity they were proudest of, what aspects of their identity they hoped to change or improve, and how they could make this change happen. Here is a sample student letter:
Dear future self,
Some good traits about me are that I am very confident about myself. I am unique and brave. Are you still some of those things? Do you dot your I's in the future? These are some things I would like to change. I am very unhealthy and picky with eating. Also I'm super lazy and not helpful. I would like to wake up when dad tells me to. I want to eat all the food that is put on my plate and unload the dishes every day. Thanks for your time!
Students will get these letters back at the end of the school year and reflect on any changes to their identity. Starting the new year by having students set goals on how to become better people will hopefully build a community of individuals who are accepting of themselves and others. We are always stronger when our community is uKnighted.
This activity was inspired by the work of artist Mary Corey March.