Main aim: By the end of the lesson, students will be better able to map out the best and worst versions of themselves, turning daily decisions into 5-year outcomes, and using this push and pull as motivation to become the best they can be…by using personality adjectives (it’s lesson observation season at IH Riga-Satva!)
“That’s why I built this Future Authoring Programme. It’s like ‘Hey, if we can figure out how to make people more effective, well, let’s do it!” – Jordan B. Peterson, Professor of Psychology, University of Toronto.
#1 This is great for students’ psychologically. Articulating their best case and worst case scenarios for their lives in November 2022 makes them think about their potential, both positive and negative. One pulls and the other pushes, but both are a call to action now. “You actually neurologically rewire people by having them formulate their own thoughts. If you have to conjure up the thoughts and you have to articulate them then they change you” – Jordan B. Peterson.
#2 This is great for students’ English – revises personality vocabulary; the 2nd conditional; writing, speaking and listening skills.
#3 This is good for me as a person and a teacher – one step back from the psychologically destructive effects of cognitive dissonance i.e. making sure that my values align with my actions whenever possible. I outlined these values in What’s Your WHY?, and one that’s particularly relevant here is ‘using and creating realistic, useful and engaging activities and content’.
Laying out plans to be the best person you can be and avoiding the very real possibility of being the worst you can be is as realistic and useful as it gets.
Future authoring – the studies
Professor Peterson’s programme has shown real results in boosting motivation to study. It was tested on 5,000-7,000 university students in Europe, mostly at the Rotterdam School of Management, and these students’ grade point average shot up 25% and the overall university drop out rate decreased 25%.
Another experiment took place at Mohawk College in Canada, and drop out rates improved by 50% in first semester, with particularly clear effects on men who had been weaker performers at high school.
An image to reiterate this point before we get into the How and What of the lesson. You can take the left, or you can take the right. One goes down, one goes up. One is easy but you roll down to oblivion. The other takes effort but has a beautiful view at the top.
No, it’s not that easy to be the best you can be, or everyone would do it…
What did we do at IH Riga-Satva?
I did the following with my class of advanced adults, as well as two classes of 18-year-olds preparing for the Year 12 school state exam here in Latvia. Don’t worry – I added on the informal letter at the end as this is one of their writing tasks in the exam (see point 5). Many birds with one stone!
1. We went back 6 weeks to our lessons on personality adjectives, and I had the students write down 5 adjectives to describe themselves as the best and worst version of themselves:
2. We watched the first 4 minutes of the video below, and students completed the following sentences, with the underlined words left out:
‘What would your life be like 3 to 5 years down the road if you set it up for you like you were someone you were taking care of?‘
‘You get to design a little heaven to strive for and a little hell to avoid‘.
3. I introduced the hypotheticals “If you were the best version of yourself every day for five years, what would your life be like in November 2022?” “If you were the worst version of yourself every day for five years, what would your life be like in November 2022?” Yes, 2nd conditionals – it’s not just a vocabulary/psychology lesson; we try to tick all the boxes!
4. Students then thought about the six areas that Professor Peterson listed: 1) Health 2) Use of drugs and alcohol 3) Wishes for intimate relationships 4) Wishes for family 5) Wishes for career 6) Wishes for education.
- They wrote for 5 minutes the positive and 5 minutes on the negative, just to get some initial ideas down to refine and reform later.
- We did a Maurice 4-3-2 speaking activity, when students repeated the presentation of their ideas to different partners for 4 minutes, then 3 minutes, then 2 minutes. This is an excellent exercise to work on fluency and self-editing.
5. (For the Year 12 exam cohort) Two informal letters to their future selves in November 2020, three years down the road towards the 2022 destinations they’d just articulated.
The first – Dear *your name*, // What the hell are you doing?! (advice on getting off the negative route)
The second – Dear *your name*, // Keep it up! (advice on staying on the positive route)
Some examples of what students wrote (with their permission of course, names blocked…
1. Dear ……………, // What the hell are you doing?!
2. Dear ……………, // Keep it up!
Teaching English is great, but you can also help students to help themselves be the best version of themselves through theming lessons on important and transformational psychology such as this and growth mindset (see Mindset section of the blog for more info and a lesson plan).
Teens are often keen on changing the world, but if Peterson is to be believed, they should start with self-improvement and work outwards. As teachers, we can nudge them in the right direction: metaphorically and literally, getting them to tidy their room before they start with other people.
“If you want to change the world you start with yourself and build outward. I don’t know how you can go out and protest the structure of the entire economic system if you can’t keep your room organised.”