Monday, January 10, 2011

Why Write About Your Life?

I remember listening to my grandmother tell stories about growing up.  My dad told us stories about things that he did and what life was like for him as a child--mostly about walking to and from school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways (in Houston, Texas).  My husband remembers running in to see his grandmother and asking her to tell him a story about his dad growing up.  Although entertaining and often embellished, these were history lessons. 

When I became a teacher, I was amazed to learn that my students had not had the same experience.  I first discovered this while teaching First Grade.  I was trying to make a point and said something like "It's like when your grandmother tells you stories about when she was growing up."  The blank stares that came back to me were a surprise.  I asked if anyone had listened to their grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, or dads tell about what life was like when they were growing up.  Not one child raised his hand.

Appalled by the loss of history, I created what I called "Living History Day".  All the first grade teachers invited retired people in the community to the school on a particular day.   As I was preparing my class for the visit I said, "Now they did not have electricity then."  One student asked, "Then how did they play their Nintendo games?"  That took a great deal of explaining.  When the day arrived, we assigned 4 or 5 students to each visitor and they listened to stories about growing up during the 1920s and 1930s.

When I began teaching 5th grade, I wanted to do a similar project that was age appropriate.  I assigned the students a special project which included interviewing one Senior citizen and writing a report on the interview.  Ohhhh, did I hear complaints, moans, and groans!  On the day the reports were due; several students had not even begun the assignment.  But those that had were very glad they had taken the opportunity to learn from an elder.  After class one student said to me, "I sure was mad at you when you gave us this assignment, but now I'm glad because I learned so much and it was fun."

Your loved ones want to know what life was like when you were growing up.  You are Living History.  I encourage you to take the time to record significant events in your life.  If you don't want to write them, take time to tell your children or grandchildren.  Tell them often so they don't forget.  In this day of technology, there are many options for recording your history.  Don't let your history die.  Tell someone today.
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