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A Significant Influence: Describing an Important Teacher in Your Life
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Five 50-minute sessions|
Yankton, South Dakota
All of us have had a teacher who has made a profound difference in our lives—someone who changed our lives, made us think more deeply, set our feet on the right path. Perhaps it was a teacher we met in a classroom, but it could just have easily been a coach, a youth group leader, a family or community elder, or religious leader. In this project, students write a tribute to such a teacher, someone who has taught them an important lesson that they still remember. The personal essays that students write for this lesson are then published in a class collection. Because writing about someone who has been a significant influence is a typical topic for college application essays, the lesson’s extensions include resources for writing more traditional, formal papers.
ReadWriteThink Printing Press: Use this online tool to create a newspaper, brochure, booklet, or flyer. Students choose a layout, add content, and then print out their work.
Author T. A. Barron states that "There is nothing more heroic than the teacher who helps a young person discover those vast reserves inside himself or herself, who gives him hope when all seems hopeless, who shows her dreams in the midst of nightmares, and teaches us all to face fear with strong determination" (11). Recognizing the importance that a teacher can hold in a student's life, this assignment asks students to recall a special teacher and capture that teacher's message in a personal essay. Diana Mitchell explains that when we "connect the work we ask [students] to do in school with their own lives, they can become eager, active participants in their own learning" (79). In successful units of this kind, "writing . . . is connected to students' lives" and "issues of student concern . . . are an important part of the class (83). By providing examples, modeling the activities, and engaging students in collaborative work, this lesson incorporates elements of best practice.
Barron, T.A. Letter included in "Dear Teachers: Letters to Another Hero." Voices From the Middle 9.2 (December 2001): 11.
Mitchell, Diana (ed.) "Starting with the Students (Teaching Ideas column)." English Journal 87.3 (March 1998): 79-83.