In our second session at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, we read the story Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers. In the story, a boy looks in the mirror and then talks with family, friends, and people he knows, in an effort to try to describe himself.
After we read the story, the students completed a form we created entitled “Who I Am,” which has 10 different shapes to fill in 10 different aspects of themselves. Then we asked the students to decide, if they had to describe themselves using only three of these aspects, which three are the most important.
This led us into a conversation about what is essential to our identities and how we decide. Some of the questions the students asked included:
Do you have to do something a lot in order for it to qualify as part of your identity?
Do you have to like something in order for it to quality as part of your identity?
What about those parts of ourselves that we don’t like very much?
Which parts of our identities do we choose? Which parts are chosen for us?
Are there infinite characteristics that make us who we are?
An exercise I have also used to help foster this discussion is to ask students the following (adapted from an activity developed by my colleague David Shapiro) — we discuss each part before going on to the next part:
Write down something you know about yourself
Write down something you don’t know about yourself
Write down something that pretty much everyone who knows you knows about you
Write down something that hardly anyone who knows you knows about you
Write down something people should know about you