The very first time I taught VALUES inside a writing class, I told my students to go home and jot down as numerous strong experiences as they could think of in their lives. Next to each, these were to write out a strong reversal which was closely associated with each strongly positive or strongly negative experience and based on further experiences using their lives or from the lives of people they personally knew.
I provided several examples around the white board so that they would be sure to understand, so we discussed those a little. And that i explained the assignment was to help them identify material they might talk about within the several types of essays they'd be completing through the span of the category. They appeared to 'get it.'
However, before the next class period, two unhappy students came to see me. They were having trouble finding values in their lives that they could reverse.
The very first student, Jared, stood before my desk and said, 'I don't see what you mean by positive and negative values within my life. I guess I've got a stable but boring life,' he laughed.
I laughed, too, and responded, 'Well, how are your experiences, your relationships, at home? What are the values-really positive, really negative? Just so-so, absolutely nothing to brag about or complain about?'
'Just so-so, I guess. We get along okay, actually. No real problems. Nothing really wonderful, either, I suppose.'
I chuckled and said, 'Okay, I understand that which you mean. How about your wellbeing? How's that? Great shape, bad shape-what?'
Jared offered, 'Well, my health's okay, too, I guess.' He paused. 'There is a thing, though.' He looked down at his feet. 'I've got diabetes, but it is in check. I eat right and take my insulin in the right times. No big deal.'
I smiled and replied, 'I think you might have something to create about there, Jared. How do we think many people take a look at or view or value diabetes, what are their overall expectations about diabetes-do they view it positively or negatively?'
He looked off in to the distance, the window, and said, 'Actually, my buddies kid me about all the great food I can't eat anymore, like hot fudge sundaes. But, you know what?' Jared seemed a little defensive, and he got a bit animated and energetic at this point. 'Because I watch things i eat, I eat much better than they are doing, and that i take better care of myself because of my diabetes. In twenty years, I betcha I will be in far better shape than they will be in!'
'Bingo! You've got it, Jared! While most people see diabetes as a very negative value and have negative expectations about it, you value it as an experience that makes you discipline yourself so you take care of the body, and you will be best over time for it!'
'Actually, now that I believe about this, it's paying off within the short-run, too, Mr. Drew. I'm already in better shape than my buddies. They eat all kinds of unhealthy foods, and they stuff themselves when they shouldn't.'
'Okay, then! You have your thesis for the first essay in our class, a cause-and-effect paper-now go jot down more strong values with strong reverses!' Grinning, Jared left.
The second student, Pamela, started out within the same negative way: 'I guess I've got a do-nothing life, Mr. Drew. I'm not sure how to handle this assignment,' she said in a monotone, looking at her feet.
'Well, Pamela, once we showed on the board in class, just write down some positive stuff you feel strongly about and some negative stuff you feel strongly about. And then jot down reverses alongside them.' I motioned towards the chair beside my desk, and she sat down.
'What positive things? Since my parents got divorced eight months ago, nothing's been positive,' she mumbled, dull-eyed, staring downward.