Yet, despite my aversion to the overall message of this particular book, Palahniuk does successfully create something that lives forever -- a story and a community around that book. I’m not a religious sort, by any means, but I do believe that we each must find our place on this Earth. We each need to figure out what our purpose is and, hopefully, leave our own legacy. My legacy, I hope, will reside in my students and HEROES Academy. Yet, before any of us can begin to leave our legacies, we must each figure out who we are as individuals and what our purpose is.
For our gifted students, this identity often begins as stereotypes relating to their intellect or atypical behaviors. While gifted may seem like an identity, it is truly only a part of one’s identity. It’s a starting point - what one does with their giftedness is where the true identity lies. Outsiders may believe that gifted individuals have an advantage in this regard. Academic achievements may come easy, however, this can only make finding one's true self that much more difficult -- providing students with seemingly limitless options with regard to their capabilities, but little assistance for determining their true passions regardless of excellence or expectations. This is especially true for our gifted children who fly through school and enter college early -- forcing them into career decisions much earlier in life than is normal.
Most students, at some point, have questioned the purpose of their lessons. This usually comes off as a complaint along the lines of, “I shouldn’t have to learn this. When am I ever going to use this in real life?” While they’re not wrong, they’re not right either. The curriculum that we teach in school has a purpose, but we must also show students what that purpose is. We must dig deeper through the tougher questions that are frequently ignored. We must ask “how” and “why.” We must show students a purpose - a real world application. I don’t mean real world *problems.* I mean actually letting students apply their new knowledge in the real world.
This idea -- the idea of purpose -- is one that inspires students to write. Many gifted students find themselves frustrated with school writing assignments because they lack a purpose. They lack a vision. The assignment is submitted to a teacher, who reads it, marks it up, and returns it. It’s then promptly crumpled up and thrown in the trash. This shows students that their writing is trash. It’s not meant to live on forever. It’s not even meant to live on outside the classroom. Students put minimal effort into their writing assignments because they know their assignment will quickly be forgotten.
If, however, students found a purpose for their writing, they would be more inspired to write. They would be more inspired to carefully select their words and sentences. They’d think harder and longer. More effort would be applied.
In my classroom, I often encourage students to write with a purpose -- a real world purpose. Let’s write a book review, but let’s also post it on Amazon so that more people can hear what you have to say. I invite students to submit guest posts to my blog. In my Accelerated 3rd Grade Language Arts class, we make our very own picture books. After revisions, students create their own hardcover book. They work hard because they want to be proud of the end results -- and they are. It lives on forever. In my Accelerated 4th Grade Language Arts class, we make our own narrative story board games. They carefully craft their final draft onto a real game board. It lives on forever. You can do these things at home too: In the digital age, it is so simple to provide students with a purpose. Students can write and publish recipes, instructions for games, reviews of books and/or movies, research, and more. In each of these cases, a student is leaving a legacy. It may seem small, but to the student, it can be everything.