The answers are in the cards

February 24, 2021

by Tracey Passantino

I was looking through some 3×5 colored, lined note cards yesterday. They were from an exercise we included in a lesson about helping others understand their worth. The cards were not written to a specific person; just a generic card that anyone could read.

We were given the opportunity in the Fall of 2019 to test some of the concepts we developed with a group of 7th graders at a parochial school.  The class consisted of 12 girls and 5 boys. The students knew that we would be with them for 4 consecutive weeks for 45 minutes during their leadership class. They called themselves the guinea pigs.

The note cards were set on each table of 3-4 students before our second class with the students. We noticed the first week that the boys all sat together except for one. This student, during our first lesson, had rated himself as a 10, on a scale of 0 – 10 with 10 being 100%, for each statement in a series of 15 statements such as:

  • I believe in myself _____
  • I am just as valuable as other people _____
  • I would rather be me than someone else _____

It was clear from the beginning that his boy was not interested in participating. With no professional psychological under my belt, I quickly understood that he was in pain. It was interesting to see his cards the following week.

Instructions for creating the cards were very clear.

Helping others see their worth

Complete each sentence on each card in your envelope.

  1. You are equal to all other people because…
  2. You make a difference by…
  3. You are important because…
  4. You are needed in this world to…

Put the cards back in the envelope and seal it. We will use these to start our next class!

All 17 of the students participated. Examples of completed statements are:

  • You are equal to all other people because you are loved.
  • You are equal to all other people because you are unique.
  • You make a difference by doing your best and helping other people.
  • You make a difference by being yourself and being kind.
  • You are important because no other person is exactly like you.
  • You are important because you help our world.
  • You are needed in this world to help others and spread God’s word.
  • You are needed in this world to make a difference.

But one student went rogue:

  • I am loved because I’m nice!
  • Am I equal to all other people + a box for yes and a box for no. This student checked no.
  • Am I a divine creation of God + boxes for yes, no, maybe, a little. No answer was indicated.

I have no way of verifying that these cards were created by the same boy who rated himself a 10 on all the self-esteem statements. My instinct says it was him. My heart was broken for him and for the next 2 classes I tried to pull him in and keep him engaged. I think it was too hard. He rushed through each exercise we did and read a book for the rest of each class period.

One of the many things we learned by conducting this pre-pilot test was that we need to more clearly understand how to handle situations like this. Should we let the teacher know what we observed? Should we contact the counselor? Should we have asked in advance if any of the students were struggling?

The answers were in those cards.