The first time I taught VALUES inside a writing class, I told my students to go home and jot down as many strong experiences because they could consider within their lives. Alongside each, these were to write out a powerful reversal which was closely related to each strongly positive or strongly negative experience and based on further experiences using their lives or from the lives of individuals they personally knew.
I provided several examples around the white board so they would be sure to understand, and we discussed those a bit. And I explained that the assignment ended up being to help them identify material they might talk about in the several types of essays they’d be completing through the span of the category. They seemed to ‘get it.’
However, before the next class period, two unhappy students came to see me. They were having problems finding values in their lives they could reverse.
The first student, Jared, stood in front of my desk and said, ‘I don’t see that which you mean by good and bad values in 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? Do you know the values-really positive, really negative? Just so-so, absolutely nothing to brag about or complain about?’
‘Just so-so, I guess. We obtain along okay, actually. No real problems. Nothing really wonderful, either, I guess.’
I chuckled and said, ‘Okay, I understand that which you mean. How about your wellbeing? How’s that? A fit condition, bad shape-what?’
Jared offered, ‘Well, my health’s okay, too, I guess.’ He paused. ‘There is one 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 problem.’
I smiled and replied, ‘I think you might have something to create about there, Jared. How do we think most people take a look at or view or value diabetes, what exactly 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 friends kid me about all of the great food I can not eat any more, like hot fudge sundaes. But, guess what happens?’ 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 do, and I take care of myself because of my diabetes. In twenty years, I betcha I’ll 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 being an experience which makes you discipline yourself so you take better care of the body, and you will be best in the long run for it!’
‘Actually, now that I think about it, it’s paying down in the short-run, too, Mr. Drew. I’m already in better shape than my friends. They eat all sorts of unhealthy foods, and they stuff themselves once they shouldn’t.’
‘Okay, then! You have your thesis for your first essay in our class, a cause-and-effect paper-now go write down more strong values with strong reverses!’ Grinning, Jared left.
The second student, Pamela, started off in the same negative way: ‘I guess I’ve got a do-nothing life, Mr. Drew. I’m not sure what to do with this assignment,’ she said in a monotone, looking at her feet.
‘Well, Pamela, once we showed around the board at school, just jot down some positive things you feel strongly about and some negative stuff you feel strongly about. And then jot down reverses next to them.’ I motioned to 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.