How a final exam changes our lives

November 23, 2019

Gratitude 2019.JPG

It started on senior ditch day. On the day after Halloween in 2016, my partner in crime, Sarah Hunter, and I needed to finish building curriculum for the last three days of the trimester, including the final exam. We were trying to figure out something significant to do for our 12th graders in our senior English curriculum, but we had finished the final unit, so we were left with a blank slate. We wanted the last lesson to be meaningful and challenging, and we wanted it to to go with them, far beyond the finals period that day. 

We stumbled upon this video from Soul Pancake (of Kid President fame), and ran with it. We pulled Brene Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability, and UC Berkeley’s Greater Good work on the science of gratitude and put together our first annual Gratitude Workshop. 

The steps are simple and profound:

  1. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has impacted you.

  2. Call that person and read the letter.

  3. Soul transformation. 

This past week marks our fourth annual Gratitude Workshop, and it’s still just as magical. 

When they walk into the room to make the call, these 18 year old seniors are suddenly visibly nervous. Paper in hand, they take a seat at the table. The boys tend to rub their thighs, tap their toes. Everyone lets out an audible deep breath. Some students say they hope they don’t cry, some can’t even formulate words because they’re too on edge. They dial the number, put it on speaker. Sometimes they look up to check to make sure they’re not alone, sometimes they’re so focused on not coming undone that they don’t look up.

The person picks up and, almost every time, the students look surprised. Their voice shakes and they begin explaining the purpose of the call. Something like, “Hi, mom. I’m in my English final and I had to write a letter of gratitude, so I’m calling you… No it’s not in front of the whole class… yes, no, wait, let me just read it to you!” Deep breath.

Here are just a few of the stories I’ve watched from my end of the camera these last four years:

A brother calling a sister weeks after being in a mass shooting to express his fear and his overwhelming gratitude that she is alive. 

A daughter calling her mom and thanking her for teaching her to be strong while she is on deployment. 

A son calling his mom in tears, thanking her for the years she sacrificed for him without notice. 

A son calling his mom who he knows only has a few more months to live. 

A son calling his stepdad and saying he loved him for the first time. 

A girl calling her teacher to tell her she’s changed her life. 

Our students have been on the news and radio for it every year. These are the stories we are craving to hear. Our minds and souls are weary of the devastation and vitriol that we see when we check our news feed, and they’re weary of the stress and worry of normal every day life. 

But gratitude changes us from the inside out, and The Gratitude Workshop creates a space for that to happen ten-fold. 

I’ve tried to explain what happens to me, to them, to the recipients on the call. And every time, my words fall short. I recognize that this sounds hyperbolic, but I mean this: my soul is transformed every time I am a part of The Gratitude Workshop. 

Just this past summer, a former student reached out and asked for her gratitude video from three years ago. In her email she explained that her father had suddenly passed away and she wanted the video of when she called him for The Gratitude Workshop. 

This is the gift of this assignment: it gives and gives longer and deeper than we can grasp. It’s the domino effect of gratitude, spreading like wildfire. Ask the teachers and principals and parents and siblings who’ve been on the receiving end of these calls– they are changed, too.

I think that’s the whole point. The Gratitude Workshop creates an experience unlike anything else we see, do, and feel. It can’t be boxed up in words because it can only be lived, not retold. 

Watch these videos to catch a glimpse. And to really test the magic, do it yourself. 

Oh, and thank you to the class of 2017 for sleeping in November 1st, 2016 and giving us space to dream up something bigger than we believed was possible. 

Sage Creek High School’s 12th grade students participate in a reinvented final exam. #TheGratitudeWorkshop is changing lives! Learn more at http://sagecreekenglish.weebly.com/thegratitudeworkshop Filmed at Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, California. Go ahead, make someone’s day. Join us and #spreadgratitude today and everyday.

Sage Creek High School 12th grade students participate in a reinvented final exam. #TheGratitudeWorkshop is changing lives! Learn more at http://sagecreekenglish.weebly.com/the-gratitude-workshop.html Help us #spreadgratitude. Email sarah.hunter@carlsbadusd.net for more information. Music Credit: “Inspiring” from Happy and Positive by Sophonic Media “That Positive Feeling” from Feeling Positive by Alumo

Work with me

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hey, i'm corrie!

I help people-driven companies, large and small, connect with their kind of people with brand voice strategy + personalized copy. A believer in public schools and Ted Lasso, I love getting to champion the best version of your brand. 

Gratitude 2019.JPG

It started on senior ditch day. On the day after Halloween in 2016, my partner in crime, Sarah Hunter, and I needed to finish building curriculum for the last three days of the trimester, including the final exam. We were trying to figure out something significant to do for our 12th graders in our senior English curriculum, but we had finished the final unit, so we were left with a blank slate. We wanted the last lesson to be meaningful and challenging, and we wanted it to to go with them, far beyond the finals period that day. 

We stumbled upon this video from Soul Pancake (of Kid President fame), and ran with it. We pulled Brene Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability, and UC Berkeley’s Greater Good work on the science of gratitude and put together our first annual Gratitude Workshop. 

The steps are simple and profound:

  1. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has impacted you.

  2. Call that person and read the letter.

  3. Soul transformation. 

This past week marks our fourth annual Gratitude Workshop, and it’s still just as magical. 

When they walk into the room to make the call, these 18 year old seniors are suddenly visibly nervous. Paper in hand, they take a seat at the table. The boys tend to rub their thighs, tap their toes. Everyone lets out an audible deep breath. Some students say they hope they don’t cry, some can’t even formulate words because they’re too on edge. They dial the number, put it on speaker. Sometimes they look up to check to make sure they’re not alone, sometimes they’re so focused on not coming undone that they don’t look up.

The person picks up and, almost every time, the students look surprised. Their voice shakes and they begin explaining the purpose of the call. Something like, “Hi, mom. I’m in my English final and I had to write a letter of gratitude, so I’m calling you… No it’s not in front of the whole class… yes, no, wait, let me just read it to you!” Deep breath.

Here are just a few of the stories I’ve watched from my end of the camera these last four years:

A brother calling a sister weeks after being in a mass shooting to express his fear and his overwhelming gratitude that she is alive. 

A daughter calling her mom and thanking her for teaching her to be strong while she is on deployment. 

A son calling his mom in tears, thanking her for the years she sacrificed for him without notice. 

A son calling his mom who he knows only has a few more months to live. 

A son calling his stepdad and saying he loved him for the first time. 

A girl calling her teacher to tell her she’s changed her life. 

Our students have been on the news and radio for it every year. These are the stories we are craving to hear. Our minds and souls are weary of the devastation and vitriol that we see when we check our news feed, and they’re weary of the stress and worry of normal every day life. 

But gratitude changes us from the inside out, and The Gratitude Workshop creates a space for that to happen ten-fold. 

I’ve tried to explain what happens to me, to them, to the recipients on the call. And every time, my words fall short. I recognize that this sounds hyperbolic, but I mean this: my soul is transformed every time I am a part of The Gratitude Workshop. 

Just this past summer, a former student reached out and asked for her gratitude video from three years ago. In her email she explained that her father had suddenly passed away and she wanted the video of when she called him for The Gratitude Workshop. 

This is the gift of this assignment: it gives and gives longer and deeper than we can grasp. It’s the domino effect of gratitude, spreading like wildfire. Ask the teachers and principals and parents and siblings who’ve been on the receiving end of these calls– they are changed, too.

I think that’s the whole point. The Gratitude Workshop creates an experience unlike anything else we see, do, and feel. It can’t be boxed up in words because it can only be lived, not retold. 

Watch these videos to catch a glimpse. And to really test the magic, do it yourself. 

Oh, and thank you to the class of 2017 for sleeping in November 1st, 2016 and giving us space to dream up something bigger than we believed was possible. 

Sage Creek High School’s 12th grade students participate in a reinvented final exam. #TheGratitudeWorkshop is changing lives! Learn more at http://sagecreekenglish.weebly.com/thegratitudeworkshop Filmed at Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, California. Go ahead, make someone’s day. Join us and #spreadgratitude today and everyday.

Sage Creek High School 12th grade students participate in a reinvented final exam. #TheGratitudeWorkshop is changing lives! Learn more at http://sagecreekenglish.weebly.com/the-gratitude-workshop.html Help us #spreadgratitude. Email sarah.hunter@carlsbadusd.net for more information. Music Credit: “Inspiring” from Happy and Positive by Sophonic Media “That Positive Feeling” from Feeling Positive by Alumo

Work with me

hey, i'm corrie!

I help people-driven companies, large and small, connect with their kind of people with brand voice strategy + personalized copy. A believer in public schools and Ted Lasso, I love getting to champion the best version of your brand. 

share this post

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