“So What IS Life About?”

Deep Thoughts No Comments
That’s a question I’ve asked about 150 soon-to-be 7th graders in the last week.
I grew up passionately wishing the thoughts and words I had within me could change the world or even just help people I watched struggle. I realized in my early twenties I was being naive to think anyone would listen to anything I had to say, and that even IF they did listen, it would have no impact.

My alter-ego, “Ms. Hayden,” gets to do so many cool things, and one of the things I find most fulfilling is when I can unite the innocent and hopeful adolescent I used to be with the wiser, more-experienced, AND still hopeful adult I have become.

When the kids have asked me what my lesson would be about this last week I’ve looked at them very matter-of-factly and replied, “The Meaning of Life.”

I’d like to share the lesson with you, because it has been an incredible reminder for me to remember what life is really about. So, without further ado, here is Ms. Hayden’s final lesson for the year.

Hint: Click all the links and watch all the short clips for maximum impact. 🙂

In the movie “Big Fish” there is a man named Edward. Click the link below to watch the short clip of Edward leaving the small town in which he grew up and the two paths with which he is faced.

The last line is particularly important:

“Now What I recall of Sunday school was, The more difficult something became the more rewarding it was in the end.”

The next part of the lesson is when I butcher one of the most well-known pieces of poetry ever written:

 After reading the poem I have the kids tell me how the video and the poem are related. THEN the bigger idea comes in to lesson: “Why am I choosing this theme of “paths” for my last lesson EVER with you?”

We discuss their ideas for a bit, and then I show them the following video (one of my favorites of ALL-TIME!):

After watching the Pep Talk from Kid President I ask what lines were memorable to them while also telling them some of the most meaningful lines to me.Ms. Hayden’s favorite lines are:
“The world needs you to stop being boring!
“Create something that makes the world awesome!”
“Give the world a reason to dance!”
“What will be your Space Jam?”
“If we’re all on the same team then it’s time to start acting like it!”

Across the board the line all the kids remember is:
don't stop believing

One of my administrators helped me out with pulling off this lesson, and even came in to teach parts of them with me. He took this part the kids grabbed onto and did something really cool that doesn’t happen often in schools: He told the kids how we, as educators and parents, have failed them.
We have told them they have to be in competition with one another instead of helping each other.
He then asked them, “Who decides if your dream is stupid?”
Fortunately, most of them answered that it was up to them to decide if their dream was stupid.
Watch the next clip, though, and tell me you don’t relate to it in some way (I dare ya):
It KILLS me how the kid just accepts what his dad is saying as truth. You can see the light inside him dim. We do this to kids ALL the time. Maybe, instead of telling them they will never be a professional athlete we can encourage them to have a back-up plan.

Ok, time to digress for a moment:
The second time I watched this clip with a class a memory came back to me and it hit me pretty hard. I am pretty close to my students, so they got to see me cry this week as I shared my memory with them.
I’m pretty open about my belief, upon graduating high school, that I would NOT be going to college. I always thought I was stupid. Thankfully, my dad FORCED me to enroll at the local community college and my world changed.
After a year or so of college I decided I wanted to be a teacher. My dad discouraged me from pursuing this goal because he was working with so many former teachers who had left their teaching jobs after less than five years.dad book Teaching is tough. Kids are tough. Parents are tough. The politics of schools districts are tough, and ultimately, I had a small dose of those tough politics and wound up pursuing a psychology degree instead of an education degree.

A few years after completing my Master’s in Psychology I realized I still wanted to be in schools, just maybe not as a classroom teacher, and I enrolled and completed a Specialist’s degree in Guidance and Counseling. I knew I had to do what my heart was telling me. I had to follow my dream. My dad knew it too.

One day he gave me a book as a gift. The book was “Best Children’s Classics.” On the inside cover he wrote, “The children of the world need people like you.”

I explained to the kids that parents want what is best for you, always. They want to keep you from being hurt, from wasting money and time and energy, and sometimes they discourage you out of love.
Just as the dad says in the clip, you can’t let anyone keep you from your dreams, not even your parents.

Next, I show and read the kids the TOP HALF of this advertisement from Nike:life isnt

The bottom half is cropped out for them, but I couldn’t make that happen here.

We talk about whether they agree or disagree with specific items listed, and then I ask them the question:

“So What IS Life About?”

I have each one of them write 3-5 “things” life is about and they each share one item aloud.
I’m not gonna tell you what they said because I am saving that for their family and friends at their graduation this week, but they remind me of myself, and maybe that is part of why I love them so much. 🙂 I see so much of my hope in them.





In closing I tell them they all wrote some really nice words on their papers and said really nice words aloud, and then we watch a short clip from Batman Begins.

In the clip, Bruce Wayne (unknown to most of the world as the Batman) runs into his childhood friend who is unimpressed with his billionaire, playboy, arrogant persona.

“It’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you.”
That’s the line I repeat to the kids. Don’t let what we discussed just stay words on paper. Show the world your character every day.

I read to them the bottom half of the Nike advertisement and I give them this quote:


I think this is a great lesson for all of us. As we “grow up” we can lose sight of our dreams and what is important in life; We can get caught up in the things that happen to us and get stuck.

I hope this helps you to remember your dreams and what is important in life.


P.S. Friday afternoon I sent the clip from “The Pursuit of HappYness” to my dad so I could tell him the story I told to my kids.
He sent me an email back stating “Great hearts think alike. This is the video I plan to use in training next week”
Now, I know it says “8 Minutes” but you will see the coincidence as soon as you hit “play.”
I am my father’s daughter:

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