“Visualizing Myself Ten Years from Now” is a unit with a mission. It aims at satisfying the ideals of the school which is to help encourage students to think ahead and prepare for a possible career in the business world, but on a more basic level it aims at building a greater level of self awareness and self confidence in our students.
The concept for this unit emerged from my teaching experience last year in a course called “Journals and Publications.” Last year I taught this course and assigned the making of individual journals as a series of self-help and visualization exercises. Once a student was pointed in the right direction, his journal would take on a life of its own. The best sign was when the student’s head was down and I could stand back and let the work take over. I could see how these journals clearly offered a quiet place from students’ stress filled lives. At the end of the semester when we were preparing to exhibit the journals in the Hall Gallery, I required that each student write a bio for himself which we posted above each journal. These turned out to be very lively descriptions of their present lives. Students who had shown no interest for the written text in their journals were suddenly opening their hearts and telling a story about themselves. It was then that I realized how much an integral part these bios were to the process of journalmaking. I handed out a questionnaire form which would help them with guided thinking about various responses concerning their roots, their interests and dreams, and those people closest to them.
The format for the first half of the journal is simple. Requirements include a “Name page” or a “Title page”. On this page the student name or journal name is included within a border design of his or her choosing. Next he presents his “ Bio page” (hopefully, a narrative, although there are many alternative possibilities). There may be a “Dedication” page for a major person in his life. If by this time the student hasn’t found a voice of his own to expand the journal, he can continue to follow a format to work on. One is called the “Friends and Family” page, and lastly the “Goals and Interests” page. In the first half of the journal, the student sets a personal preference for a formal or less formal style. Through text and graphics (which can include photos, drawings or cutouts), he conveys how he envisions himself or how he wants to be seen by others, Once he has appraised himself in his present world, he has fulfilled the requirement for the first half of the journal. He has provided the ground work for the second half of the journal. Last year I opened wide the creative possibilities in filling up the twenty pages of their journal. Students were free to extemporize. They worked with the required titles and chose what worked for them. But for the next school year when I present this new unit, I will ask students to limit themselves to filling the first ten pages of the journal with their present lives (choosing from the above titles), and leave the remaining ten pages for our new unit.
At this point we are ready to undertake the challenge called “Visualizing Myself Ten Years from Now”. By feeding their imaginations, the art of journalmaking will empower my students with new dreams for their futures. Furthermore, the simple act of envisioning themselves as they hope to be someday, is a powerful prerequisite to making it happen. The cavemen of Lascaux, France drew figures of bisons, horses and mammoths on the walls of their caves for the practical purpose of envisioning the animals they wanted to hunt for their food and clothing. They didn’t do this just for amusement or decoration, but because they thought that by painting pictures of these animals they were making it easier to hunt them. Of this we are reasonably sure because many of the paintings depict the beasts with spears in them; in other words they invested the pictures with magic powers. So too, can students through artful drawings, phrases and word, transform their own worlds through their imagination and begin to believe in the reality of their dreams.
Not everyone is capable of being a visionary. I will need to use other strategies for those who resist this imagination-oriented project, or those who may be harboring fears of looking ahead. In that case I will provide a variety of hands on art activities aimed at dispelling those fears. Those students need a happy blend of ingredients in order to find momentum and flow in working on their journals. I try to keep them motivated with the hope that they finally take ownership of something from all the tools I use. The tools to help motivate their imagination come in the way of films, art books, graphic novels, and art prints. They may learn that many of their ideas come from their roots. I also give them the freedom to select from a large range of media, subject matter, symbols, and ideas to create their new vision of themselves. More importantly, their goal will be to create a future vision for themselves, and perhaps a more optimistic one, which offers them a greater sense of self empowerment- artistically, imaginatively, and proactively.